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SHAGGY D.A., THE (director: Robert Stevenson; screenwriters: Don Tait/from the novel “The Hound of Florence” by Felix Salten; cinematographer: Frank Phillips; editors: Bob Bring/Norman Palmer; music: Buddy Baker; cast: Dean Jones (Wilby Daniels), Tim Conway (Tim), Suzanne Pleshette (Betty Daniels), Keenan Wynn (John Slade), Jo Anne Worley (Katrinka Muggelberg), Dick Van Patten (Raymond), Shane Sinutko (Brian Daniels), Vic Tayback (Eddie Roschak), John Myhers (Admiral Brenner), Dick Bakalyan (Freddie), Warren Berlinger (Dip), Pat McCormick (Bartender), John Fiedler (Dogcatcher), Ronnie Schell (TV news director), George Kirby (Impressionist), Hans Conried (Prof. Whatley); Runtime: 91; MPAA Rating: G; producer: Bill Anderson; Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment; 1979)
“Wearisome and derivative.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Lame sequel to the smash Disney hit The Shaggy Dog (1959). It’s clumsily written by Don Tait and adapted from the novel “The Hound of Florence” by Felix Salten. Director Robert Stevenson (“Falling for You”/”Back Street”/”The Love Bug”) keeps it wearisome and derivative.

Wilby Daniels (Dean Jones) is a successful attorney with a loving wife Betty (Suzanne Pleshette) and smart young son Brian (Shane Sinutko). They are the latest victims of the crimewave sweeping the fictional town of Medfield, as their home is robbed twice. The outraged counselor, with his family egging him on, runs for D. A. against the do-nothing firmly entrenched incumbent district attorney Honest John Slade (Keenan Wynn). The amateur politician vows to bring sweeping changes and expose this administration’s corruption.

We soon learn that the D.A. is bought off to look away by Eddie Roschak (Vic Tayback), the boss of the burglary ring. Roschak’s flunkies, Freddie and Dip (Dick Bakalyan, Warren Berlinger), rob a magical ring from the local museum; it’s the same priceless Borgia cursed ring which caused Wilby’s transmutations when he was a teen (in other words, the same ring of Tommy Kirk’s). The thieves can’t fence the ring with their usual sources, so they sell it for only a few bucks to the schleppy ice cream vendor Tim (Tim Conway).

When Tim reads the ring’s mystic inscription (“Canis corpore transmuto”) aloud, Wilby again has a dog’s coat like in his youth. Since Tim’s constant companion is a huge sheepdog answering to Elwood, the magical spell causes his body to merge with the sheepdog’s. Inevitably, Wilby finds himself “putting on the dog” during the campaign’s most awkward times. Eventually, Slade’s chief of staff (Dick Van Patten) figures out what’s happening, and sends the bad guys out to retrieve the ring and see if they could deliver Wilby to the local pound.

Jo Anne Worley is the roller derby queen who plays Conway’s dream girl; Pat McCormick plays the bartender not amused by what he sees; Hans Conried plays the museum’s befuddled curator; John Fiedler plays the beset town dogcatcher; and Ronnie Schell plays the provoked TV news director. Impressionist George Kirby channels the likes of Bogart, Cagney, Lorre and Eddie G. as Wilby’s dog-pound cellmates.

At best, this is serviceable hokum for children, serving up dumb physical comedy and a tedious story about corruption to interest the adults.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”