It may come as a bit of a surprise, but several thousand years ago, canines boarded a spaceship and set off from their native Dog Star Sirius to come to Earth. Their mission? Complete dominance and colonization of the planet. Hearing a rumor that the assignment may have failed, the ruler of Sirius (Greater Dane) dispatches Canid 3942 (Hubble) on a fact-finding mission. But when a unique wind disturbance sends his spacecraft crashing ruinously to the ground, the exploratory pooch finds himself in a bit of a lurch.
Meanwhile, the Baker family remodels homes for income—living in the one they’re transforming. Sadly (at least for 12-year-old Owen), this life of transition fails to provide the stable home life he craves. To top it off, Owen has no male friends, just one female friend (Connie) and is an easy target for the two neighborhood bullies. Still, Owen makes the best of things. He honors his parents, has a good attitude and tackles the responsibility of neighborhood dog-walker. When Owen fulfills his part of a bargain made with his mother and responsibly carries out his canine-care summer job, Mrs. Baker honors her portion and gives approval for a family dog—a mutt located at the pound. A mutt who just so happens to be Hubble.
When Hubble tells Shep, Wilson, Nelly and Barbara Ann (the dogs Owen walks) that they’ve failed by Sirius standards, they're hardly motivated to change. After all, they love their masters and enjoy their lives of leisure. Still, when they discover that the Greater Dane herself is coming to earth, they’re compelled to play along to prove dogs run the planet and humans live to serve them. (To fall short would mean the Greater Dane would begin a Global Recall—the gradual removal of all canines from the planet.) Just when it looks like they might pull off the deception, the intergalactic top dog discovers the truth and begins the pooch retraction. Suddenly gone are Hubble, Shep, Wilson, Nelly and Barbara Ann, as well as a number of other flea-bitten scruffs. Will our canine companions all disappear? Or will something happen to reverse this doggone dilemma?
The Bakers are a loving, hard-working family. Owen has every reason to be bitter in life: He’s a loner. He’s bullied and verbally abused. And his parents move often. But he takes it all in stride without moodiness or melancholy. What’s more, when he realizes Earth faces the complete extinction of dog life, he’s willing to battle for man’s best friend.
With the family moving so often, it would be easy for Mrs. Baker to renege on the promised dog. But she doesn’t after Owen reminds her that she advised, “Work hard ... always keep your eyes on the prize.” Owen apologizes to Hubble for putting canines in jeopardy by speaking directly to the Greater Dane—something he knew was forbidden.
Friendship is central—contrasting Owen’s lack of one with Hubble’s belief that he doesn’t need one. [Spoiler Warning] Stoic Hubble softens at the end, choosing a loving home over planetary preeminence. He also agrees to forego his ability to speak. Even the bullies come around by the closing credits.
Claiming each day on Sirius begins with meditation, Hubble leads Shep, Wilson, Nelly and Barbara Ann in a session that includes deep-breathing techniques (all the dogs roll over onto their backs; a move that speaks well of the dog trainers on this project!). Hubble teaches the pooches that “dignity comes from within.”
When the neighborhood bullies refuse to take the orb Owen has been throwing for the dogs, Owen lashes out at them, “I guess you guys don’t have any balls, then.” While it may have been a perfectly innocent response (it’s unclear), it leads Connie to break out laughing. Wilson is owned by two men who live together. (Nothing is ever said of their lifestyle; nor do the two ever show affection of any kind. But because of Hollywood's recent embrace of homosexual ideals, parents may interpret their presence as representative of the gay community. Children fixated on the dogs, though, will no doubt miss this completely.)
After one of the bullies throws rocks at Hubble, Owen and the ruffians wind up in a shoving match (a punch is threatened but not delivered). Escaping through a window, one bully accidentally kicks another. One of the dogs latches on to a bully’s hindquarters. Initially Hubble is aggressive to both dogs and people, and speaking of Mrs. Baker he quips, “Can we tie her up out back?”
Crude or Profane Language
No strong or mild profanities, just a few uses of such words as “butt,” “loser,” “freak,” “poop,” "jerk" and a pun involving the planet Uranus. There is an exclamatory "Omigod."
Drug and Alcohol Content
Referring to an aerosol container, Mr. Baker warns Owen, “Knock this over and we’ll get goofy in here—don’t play around with this stuff.” While the warning is right on target, this interaction sets up a later scene in which the canister emits its contents and the dogs get high, resulting in double vision and slurry speech.
Other Negative Elements
Bathroom humor earns Good Boy! its PG rating. Shep passes gas, blaming it on “people food.” Hubble complains that Owen uses the toilet for elimination (“I drink out of that bowl”). One dog is seen urinating on a tree. Another makes a point about dogs being more in control than given credit for (“You don’t see us picking up their poop”). In order to connect with the dogs, Owen opens a car door while moving, intending to jump out (he doesn’t because his father stops the car).
This is not a movie in which the kids are the smart ones and the adults are idiots. There’s genuine respect for adulthood; it’s just that the movie revolves around children and dogs. Along the way, Good Boy! sends out all the right messages about family, friendship, sacrifice, bonding with a pet, loyalty and doing the right thing. In one scene, Hubble remarks to Owen, “Your mom and dad and you, you make a good home.” He’s right. I wish the meditation scene had wound up on the floor of the edit bay (even though it was probably left in more to show off the dogs' training than to send a spiritual message). And that the director hadn't gone for laughs with tipsy dogs. Still, most families should be able to fetch more than a few teachable moments in this comic adventure that rarely barks up the wrong tree.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Liam Aiken as Owen Baker; Molly Shannon as Mrs. Baker; Kevin Nealon as Mr. Baker; voice talents of Matthew Broderick as Hubble; Delta Burke as Barbara Ann; Donald Faison as Wilson; Brittany Murphy as Nelly; Carl Reiner as Shep; Cheech Marin as Greater Dane’s Henchman
John Hoffman ( )