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Movie Review

A single mom and the sloppy mailman who adores her. A big-muscled, tenderhearted FBI agent and his obedient canine partner. Two painfully stereotypical Mobsters with an embarrassing assignment. And one adorable kid named James who has only two needs in life: a little bit of fun and a father who loves him. Throw them all in the back of a mail truck, wipe out a couple of fire hydrants, beat the criminals senseless, let the good guys emerge unscathed, and you’ve got See Spot Run.

James and Stephanie live a happy, hygienic life as a single parent family. Down the hall from their apartment, Gordon lives the carefree but not-very-purposeful life of a bachelor. When business takes Stephanie away overnight, Gordon is called upon to serve as babysitter—against Stephanie’s better judgment.

Elsewhere, An Italian crime boss puts a hit out on the FBI Agent Eleven, who happens to be canine, and who is easily the film’s smartest character. Of course the two story lines collide, and a little boy whose life is too structured for fun ends up falling in love with a dog who’s in the same predicament. Along the way, the bad guys get busted (in the head, in the rear, in the back and by the law), Gordon gets a clue and James gets a chance to have the family he’s longed for.

positive elements: Stephanie has set very clear boundaries for James and he respects them. Though the filmmakers make a point of having Gordon teach James how to loosen up, they don’t imply that Stephanie’s discipline is wrong—just that it needs to be balanced by fun. No hints are given as to why Stephanie is a single parent (and no moral judgments are implied), but James’s resulting need for a dad is deemed natural and proper. See Spot Run even goes so far as to imply that James is looking for a man of good character: dependable, trustworthy, loyal. And don’t forget fun.

Through his adventure in babysitting, Gordon learns that living a responsible life might not be as bad as he had feared. Though his bachelor’s life gives him a great deal of freedom, it doesn’t give him the sense of purpose or belonging that being committed to family would. To James’s inquiry about whether Gordon will marry Stephanie, Gordon replies, "Marriage is a big step. You really gotta get to know someone before you do that." After James overhears an overwhelmed and scared Gordon lashing out at Stephanie, a sweet scene shows Gordon taking the time to explain his actions, admit that he was wrong and ask for forgiveness—a great example!

spiritual content: Gordon’s friend Benny teaches Yoga, but it’s clear that his form of exercise has more to do with break dancing than spirituality. Benny also quips that the Psychic Friends Hotline would be a better source of relationship advice than Gordon is, implying that both have a few loose screws.

sexual content: A female FBI agent appears in sexy pajamas, with some cleavage showing. Two female dinner guests of Mob boss Sonny Talia wear revealing outfits. When Spot goes after the Mobster, he always goes for the crotch. Talia ends up with two artificial testicles (which happen to be ball bearings that click when he walks). Gordon accidentally loses his boxer shorts, and it’s implied that he repeatedly flashes two police officers. There are a handful of sexual double entendres that may make adults squirm, but will probably fly right over most kids’ heads.

violent content: Lots of comic violence. As a mailman, Gordon has an Inspector Gadget-inspired arsenal of dog-evading equipment, which he uses to sideswipe his canine opponents. There are car chase scenes and crashes, shots fired at dogs, verbal threats from the Mafia, a shoving match between Gordon and two hearing impaired young women, several falling scenes and a couple of broken fences. First Gordon and then Talia are shocked by Agent Eleven’s electric dog collar. The climax is a pet-store face-off between Agent Eleven and the Mob, complete with biting piranhas, a double-dog clothesline move, and the total annihilation of every shelving unit in the place.

crude or profane language: Four or five mild profanities and about as many misuses of the Lord’s name.

drug and alcohol content: Benny and Gordon have beer in their apartments. Gordon suggests (not exactly jokingly, just stupidly) that he and James might "have a couple of beers." He also has a "Miller Cerveza" sign in his apartment. Talia has wine with his dinner. A female FBI agent pours wine for herself and another agent.

other negative elements: Gross-out scenes go along with the comic violence. A dog wets a mobster’s leg, Gordon forcefully spits out a mouth full of chewed-up cereal, a zebra’s passed gas meets a lighted match, etc. An extended dog poop gag ends with Gordon covered in the stuff.

Police officers (but not FBI agents) are portrayed as bumbling goofballs—not very helpful or respectable.

conclusion: If, back in 1990, Chris Columbus had realized what Home Alone’s excessive doses of comedic violence would do to the world of kids’ films, I sincerely hope he’d have thought twice before putting it on the screen. Since then, it seems that if a kids’ movie is going to be both adventurous and funny, it has to pay homage to McCauley Caulkin and Joe Pesci. It’s getting old. It would be one thing if the slapstick cruelty were peripheral, but for some reason, filmmakers are under the impression that they can keep building entire movies around it. What happens is that the elements that ought to be the meat of the story end up trivialized and confined to the margins. Such is the case with See Spot Run. James is a cute kid you can’t help but like. And the movie holds a handful of appealing and much-needed pro-family messages. But the overload of glossy violence makes them hardly worth seeing. I’ve had my fill of Home Alone wannabes; it’s time for Hollywood to find a new way to craft kid-friendly movies.

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