“Zeus and Roxanne” is a simple-minded but efficient piece of filmmaking clearly aimed at small fry. Kidpics have had a spotty success record, and this one may not cover enough new territory to break out at the box office. However, though the animals are not given enough screen time, they are so irresistible that the pic should be able to turn a tidy profit on vidcassettes and cable.
The pic, beautifully photographed in the Bahamas by d.p. David Connell, centers on the ups and downs of two unlikely couples: single parent Mary Beth (Kathleen Quinlan) and her new neighbor Terry (Steve Guttenberg), as well as his dog and a dolphin Mary Beth is working with.
Terry is a widower who’s brought his young son, Jordan (Miko Hughes), to some unnamed, sunny beach resort while he works on a rock opera. (It’s clear that Terry is unconventional because he wears an earring, rides a motorcycle and eats fruit salad with his fingers.)
Mary Beth, who lives across the way with her two young daughters (Majandra Delfino, Jessica Howell), is a marine researcher trying to help a captive dolphin adjust to life on the open sea. (It’s clear that Mary Beth is nice, because she gardens, frets over animals and hugs her kids.)
She’s trying to get a grant on dolphin research, but gets some heavy competition from an oily co-worker (Arnold Vosloo). (It’s clear that he’s a villain because he has a mustache, speaks with an accent and suggests that Mary Beth put her kids in boarding school.)
At first, dolphin Roxanne squeaks in horror at the overly friendly hound, but their friendship is cemented when she rescues him from a shark attack.
Unfortunately, their adventures are quickly put on the back burner as scripter Tom Benedek develops the relationship between Terry and Mary Beth, whose romance is being masterminded by their offspring. It’s a cross between “Lassie,” “Flipper,” “Born Free” and “A Man and a Woman,” contrasting the human turmoil with the critters’ camaraderie. As one of the daughters asks, “If a dog and a dolphin can get along, why can’t our mom and his dad?”
The scruffy-looking dog Zeus (played by three canines) is given frequent closeups as he tilts his head quizzically, waves to the dolphin and wags his little tail, but who can resist? In fact, the two animal leads are so much more interesting than the humans, it’s too bad they weren’t given more to do.
Guttenberg and Quinlan are photogenic and likable in standard roles; the three kids are fine and, thankfully, uncloying. Vosloo does as well as possible with the role of the comic villain, who has to say things like “Officer, arrest this dog!” and who gets his final comeuppance when the pooch pees in his face.
Director George Miller (the “Man From Snowy River” one, not the “Mad Max” one) is an experienced pro at animal and kid pics, and handles these chores with his usual capability.
Pic (filmed entirely in Freeport, on Grand Bahama Island) features particularly noteworthy work in Connell’s photography, Paul Mockler’s underwater camerawork and Bruce Rowland’s music.