Ruff ruff everybody! It’s me, Leonard Maltese, your favorite film critic (who also happens to be a beautiful Maltese puppy dog), back with another review. This week, I’m taking on The Amazing Wizard of Paws, directed by Bryan Michael Stoller.
Review by Leonard Maltese
First, let me preface my review by barking that I am an unabashed fan of director Bryan Michael Stoller. His sci-fi romance Light Years Away and cinema-skewering satire Miss Castaway and the Island Girls are frequent movie mainstays in my doghousehold. That being said, I can’t fully recommend his latest feature, the cute but convoluted The Amazing Wizard of Paws.
The plot: A young boy becomes agoraphobic after the death of his father, and uses sleight-of-hand magic as a coping mechanism, while befriending a dog who is actually a wizard from hundreds of years ago who holds a key to a book of incantations that is being sought after by another wizard for world-domination purposes. The boy, with the help of this magic dog (who can talk) must become a great wizard in time to beat the evil wizard, as well as win a talent show that will award him a million dollars and help him help his mother save their home from being foreclosed on.
Sounds simple enough, right? Well, director Stoller takes the audience on so many needless detours that the plot becomes muddled and loses whatever impact it was aiming to achieve. For example, an extended sequence devoted to time travel–while providing an eventual cathartic payoff–is overlong and takes away from the story’s main thrust.
Will Spencer, as the young boy wizard, equips himself nicely considering what he’s been given, and Paula Devicq, as his mother, cries convincingly enough. But the rest of the players deliver performances running the gamut of hammy to stilted. The latter critique is levied solely at Sasha Malarevsky, who plays the evil wizard Gargehon with such indifference as to call the casting director’s motives into question.
On a side note, it’s always nice to see Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister getting work, even if it’s just in a couple of scenes as a fuming fast food worker who gets a justified comeuppance (while the actor’s ironic nickname is amusingly actualized for our added enjoyment).
Disappointing still is the lack of magic displayed by the titular canine himself, portrayed by the charmless Little Bear. This is very much the boy’s story, with the dog being relegated to sidekick for a majority of the time. The film’s title serves more as pun and cash-grab, and much less as a promise of things to come. Though we are treated to this showdown between dog and wizard:
Unfortunately, the awkward feeling you got from watching that clip permeates through much of The Amazing Wizard of Paws. Still, I give it 8 Bones out of 10, because the theatre where I watched it actually served Teriyaki Burgers. Think about that. Teriyaki Burgers…AT A MOVIE THEATRE! And I had 5 of them! SO GOOD!