Saturday, September 22, 2012

Step-dad Romance and Custody Battles with My Magic Ghost Dog

Ahem. Hello, everyone. At this point we're going to take a break from the usual horror stuff and talk about animals. Specifically, supernatural animals, and not the vicious, toothy, scary kind. No, these will be the loveable, glittery, golden retriever kind:

You can thank Emily at the Deadly Doll's House for whatever follows. This whole month she's been reviewing films that fall into the "Animals Doing Human Stuff" microgenre. I'll confess - I've always found these movies fascinating simply because... well, I don't have a good reason, okay? But where else can you find stuff like a Sasquatch playing basketball or a karate dog pushing canine anatomy to its utmost limits?

Since Ghost Cat has already been covered, today I'll be taking a look at My Ghost Dog, a TV movie that frequently shows up under the guise of My Magic Dog. He's more ghost than magic though, so we'll stick with the original title. (Also, just so you know, if you're not in the mood for reading, you can scroll down to the bottom and watch the video down there for the highlights.)

By the way, who's that kid on the My Magic Dog cover? He sure doesn't appear in the movie! Now that I look more closely, the cover art for My Ghost Dog shows the right kid, but this time with a mystery woman. (Also, a truly immense angelic dog.) Who pays the people that make these covers?

Anyway, on to the story. Toby lives with his step-dad. Not only are his parents divorced, but his Mom has recently passed away, which means we have a x2 divorced/deceased parent combo! (Maybe that's Ghost Mom on the cover?) Not only that, his biological dad is completely absent from the movie, and maybe dead - which would push the multiplier up to x3! This is clearly some next level children's filmmaking going on here.

For a kid with such bad luck in the parental arena, Toby is surprisingly well-adjusted. He loves his stepdad!

Just not his stepdad's cooking.

Maybe that's why he's become such good friends with Vito, the owner of the local Italian restaurant.

A perfectly normal friendship, honest.

Shut up. Perfectly normal. It also goes without saying that Toby loves his dog, Lucky. Although there's not really much to say about Lucky right now. He's not magic, or a ghost... yet.

We also have to mention Evil Aunt Violet, a wealthy old spinster who wants custody of Toby so she can dandle him on her knee like some sick living trophy (much like the toy poodle she carries everywhere). You know right away that she's bad news because she's almost always filmed at a Dutch angle. The sheer force of her malice knocks the camera off its axis.

To make matters worse, there are some bullies in the neighborhood (of course). "Don't go walking around here talking to your dog," they say to Toby, "it's going to make the neighborhood look wack. Which'll eventually make us look wack." (The transitive property of wackness in action.) These are a different breed of bully... they're not picking on Toby 'cause he's a dork or does nerdy magic tricks. They're the overseers of the neighborhood's image. Which is weird, for a couple of guys who dress like this.

Not wack at all.

Evil attracts evil, and Violet pays the bullies to steal Toby's mom's will, which will be key in his upcoming custody hearing. Just as a loyal guard dog should, Lucky pursues the theives, but is killed when he runs face-first into a speeding car. (Not too lucky, heh heh.) As Toby cries over yet ANOTHER deceased family member, Lucky's soul bursts out of his shattered corpse and rises to heaven in a spray of CG glitter.

Toby barely has time to grieve before Lucky's ghost comes back! No stranger to death, Toby is pretty matter-of-fact about this, and just continues on about his normal day as if having a dead dog following him around were just a matter of course. Oh yeah, Lucky can TALK now too, with a really dopey sort of voice. What do you want from a dog, though?

Now that his Mom's will is gone, Toby thinks that the best plan of action is to hook his dad up with another woman. I have no experience with custody hearings, so I can't comment on how effective this strategy is, only that Toby's pretty bad at matchmaking. After a date with a "weird Nazi woman" (Dad's words, not mine), he fixates on the socially handicapped new neighbor.

Notice how I haven't talked about the dog too much? There's a reason for that. Despite having the ability to talk and move stuff around... this ghost dog doesn't do a whole lot. Most of the time he just hangs out making wisecracks at Toby's expense, and occasionally causes some wacky antics to ensue. There's a fair bit of bully comeuppance that Lucky helps out with, and eventually he saves the day by finding Mom's will just in the nick of time, but overall, he's kind of a lazy smartass. I was wondering the whole time why Toby's MOM didn't come back from the dead. She'd probably have been able to you know, pick up a pen and rewrite her will or something. I guess she might not have been quite so willing to help Dad hook up with a new girl, but who knows?

There's a lot here that I haven't mentioned... like when Dad sings a police report about cops being murdered to his date. Or how Toby becomes an indentured servanat at Vito's restaurant. Or that one time Toby's friend pours a bucket of ACID on the bullies.

Stuff like that just kind of overshadows the dog. Unfortunately, this film neglects the core concept at the heart of the ADHS genre: the animal! There's nary a poop joke nor a dog fart in the entire 90 minutes, and the only montage we get is a short, sad one, set to the tune of "let's gear up to potentially maim some bullies with acid." Looking back, the best thing My Ghost Dog has going for it is a series of one-liners that continually top themselves in sheer audacity.

This movie effectively poisoned the career of everyone involved, with the exception of the director, who's now manning the helm of Atlas Shrugged, Part II. (Although, this in and of itself may arguably indicate career death.) It even snuffed out the acting career of the kid who played Toby before it had a chance to blossom. His IMDB biography states "After finishing his role in this movie, he lost interest in acting; filming 'My Magic Dog' was very hard for him." You and me both, kid.

For those unwilling to spend 90+ minutes on this film, I've created an abridged version that you can watch below, after the requisite checklist. You're welcome. Thanks again to Emily for suggesting this idea, and be sure to check out The Deadly Doll's House for more animal antics!

Animals Doing Human Stuff Trope Checklist
New Kid In Town: X
Recent Dead or Divorced Parent: Double check!
Montage: Half-check - this one sucks.
New Friendship: Half-check again - does an adult neighbor count?
Potentially Inappropriate ‘Friendship’ Between Child & Unrelated Adult (Human): Yes, sir.
Evil Corporate Enemy: X
Original Song: X
Bully Comeuppance: Check
Small Town Values: X
Back To Nature Moral: X

Total score: 5 / 10

Verdict: How can you go wrong with a concept like a Ghost Dog? Not enough Ghost Dog! Wacky step-dad dating antics are great, but if I wanted a movie about relationships, I would have picked the one... well, the one without a giant angel dog head on the cover. That said, there is enough strange stuff here that'll probably keep you entertained.


  1. AMAZING! I love that the stepdad dated a Nazi! And that bullies get comeuppanced by ACID! And CGI GLITTER!

    Bummed that it didn't have enough Ghost Dog or farts, but I don't make this one sound MIGHTY tempting...

  2. Ok, so I just got to watch the video and JESUS! That is pure gold my friend. I think it's the Michael Jordan joke that really sells it. A plus plus!

    1. Haha, thanks! Yeah, despite the lack of dog ghosting, I was really surprised (and pretty entertained) by the amount of weird/awkward stuff in this movie. And as far as the jokes - every character has their share of groaners, but the dog's really take the cake!

  3. So wait, it's basically a father son version of Cyrano de Bergerac, but with a ghost dog? That's some innovative shit.

    I don't why dad is worried about making the Nazi woman uncomfortable. If you're a Nazi, you deserve anything and everything that could or might be coming to you, and anything else someone might come up with on top of that.

    I think the director's career will flourish after Atlas Shrugged, as long as he copiously follows the studio's notes and kowtows to Ayn Rand's vision. That was a joke.

    1. Ha, yep, pretty much. Except that rather than a big nose hindering Step-dad's romantic success, it's a whole circus tent of personal insecurities and a weird son.

      And hey, if Atlas Shrugged II has HALF the one-liners that this does, I'm sold.