Tim Allen can, very occasionally, be quite good - well, in Galaxy Quest anyway - but The Shaggy Dog has the irredeemably stupid plot of him turning into a dog. Everyone's worst nightmare I'm sure. They have even superimposed Allen's eyes onto the hirsute mutt, which is frankly one of the creepier things I've seen recently. However, on the plus side it does feature a score by Alan Menken whose last outing was for Disney's final (for the moment, at least) traditionally animated film, Home on the Range. If his contribution didn't exactly set the world alight, it did feature some lovely tunes and, I must confess, the album that has grown on me considerably since its original release.
Menken's forays into regular underscoring have been sporadic and, to be honest, some way from his finest work. However, his skills at a song writer invariably ensure a high quality of thematic material, it's just a shame that he seems to end up only writing for family films or comedies with little chance to write something a bit more dramatic. Imagine how he might use the grandiose style from Hunchback of Notre Dame in a gothic horror or grand sci-fi. Having said that, Tibet, the opening to The Shaggy Dog (as it were) is a surprisingly dramatic start, but First Signs soon slips into the expected mode of playful orchestral bouncing about and a lovely main theme. Transformation is semi-serious and Menken has fun going all melodramatic.
If the middle tracks are a little more incidental then the final few are terrific fun, Escaping the Lab and To the Rescue both featuring effortlessly, fun action music that will please anyone who enjoyed Alan Silvestri's Mouse Hunt or Stuart Little. Naturally, the finale is full on sugar coated, gee whiz hysterical mush, but I'd expect nothing less. The half hour of underscore is preceded by twenty minutes of generally feeble songs all featuring dog based puns that even Richard Whiteley (we miss you sir) would have gawped at uttering. Menken's score may be slight, but it is charming and certainly worth a spin. As with most Disney titles, it'll probably be available for a few pence in a couple of months so even for the less certain, there's little reason not to indulge.
Read other recent reviews by Tom Daish: The Snow Files: The Film Music of Mark Snow
, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad