Teacher's Pet (2004) / Animation-Fantasy
MPAA Rated: PG for some crude humor
Running Time: 68 min.
Cast (voices): Nathan Lane, Kelsey Grammer, Jerry Stiller, David Ogden Stiers, Shaun Flemming, Debra Jo Rupp, Paul Reubens, Megan Mullally, Rob Paulsen
Director: Timothy Bjorklund
Screenplay: Bill Steinkellner, Cherie Steinkellner
Teacher's Pet is based on the now-cancelled animated television series on ABC and Disney of the same name, which chronicled the exploits of a talking dog named spot who disguises himself as a young boy named Scott in order to go to school with his master, Leonard. Leonard's mother is also his 4th grade teacher, and Scott/Spot makes quite the name for himself at the school in his own right. Why they bothered crafting a major motion picture out of it is anybody's guess, but all things considered, it's not really that bad of a movie on the whole, even if it does fall short from the usual Disney level of excellence in the animated feature department.
In this film version, Spot decides he wants to stop pretending, and make the plunge by becoming a real-life human boy. He learns of a crazy scientist living out in Florida who is reported to be able to make animals into humans, so Spot connives his way into sneaking along with the family, who just so happen to be taking a trip to the Sunshine State. However, it seems the genius doctor hasn't exactly lived up to his own hype, creating grotesque monsters instead of humans, although Spot isn't fully aware of the problems at the time of his arrival.
Teacher's Pet, while being a short film, is probably a bit long in terms of spreading its modest story into feature length. It does take a while to get to the point, with the first half only marginally interesting, but once the crew make it to the doctor's lair, things become much more interesting. It's an odd little cartoon, perhaps too edgy to be fully embraced by young children, while too innocent to enthrall adults, but kids somewhere between 8 and 12 will probably find enough enjoyment in it to make it worthwhile.
The animation isn't spectacular, but for the quirky nature of the characters and situations, it seems about right. It does have excellent voice acting; no real surprise here with the immensely talented Nathan Lane (The Lion King), among many other veteran voice actors and well-known celebrities. It isn't really a funny, laugh-out-loud kind of film, more mildly amusing. If you're tuned in to its offbeat style, you'll probably find yourself smiling once in a while, especially during the catchy musical numbers.
Teacher's Pet is mostly forgettable, and perhaps will only really be embraced by fans of its run on television. Still, for what it is, it's not bad stuff.
©2004 Vince Leo