The Shaggy Dog

The curious thing about this remake of Walt Disney's 1959 "Shaggy Dog" comedy/fantasy is the filmmakers' dumbfounding loyalty to the style and sensibility of the earliest Disney live-action movies.

The curious thing about this remake of Walt Disney’s 1959 “Shaggy Dog” comedy/fantasy is the filmmakers’ dumbfounding loyalty to the style and sensibility of the earliest Disney live-action movies.

Writer Tim Doyle has set the remake in the present and dumped some of the original’s dated material, such as Cold War spies, but otherwise it might as well be 1959 all over again.

Launching “Disney Family Movies” on ABC, this telepic’s allegiance to the tone of the first “Shaggy Dog” feels exactly like a Disney print lifted from the studio’s old vaults. Such a time warp of a movie might appeal to nostalgic parents won over as children by the first “Shaggy Dog” (not to mention two sequels), but 35 years later the effect is helplessly leaden except for, perhaps , kids younger than 6.

But not all is lost. The idea that a bookish, shy teenager (Scott Weinger) should turn into a talking sheepdog as the result of a spell cast by a romantic ring discovered in his dad’s quaint museum is fanciful enough. But Dennis Dugan’s direction is pedestrian even when Doyle’s script momentarily comes to life.

The singular example of imaginative flight occurs when Weinger abruptly starts growing shaggy hair on his face and arms, and then his whole body, while watching “The Curse of the Werewolf” in a packed theater with his first date (the gleaming Sarah Lassez).

Also amusing is Ed Begley Jr., in the role of the preoccupied father originated by Fred MacMurray, and Sharon Lawrence’s absolutely on-the-mark parody of a cheerful, dim-witted homemaker.

But the crucial subplot, concerning a neighbor (James Cromwell) who’s an international jewel thief pulling off heists with the aid of a look-alike sheepdog, falls flat, like almost everything else.

The Shaggy Dog

(Sat. (12), 8-10 p.m., ABC)

  • Production: Filmed in Santa Paula and Monrovia, Calif., by ZM Prods. and Walt Disney Television. Executive producers, George Zaloom, Les Mayfield, Scott Immergut; producer, Joe Wallenstein; director, Dennis Dugan; writer, Tim Doyle.
  • Crew: Camera, Russ Alsobrook; editor, Jeff Gouson; art director, Peter Clemens; sound, Jacques Nosco; special effects, John Hartigan; animal trainer, John Van Dyke.
  • Cast: Cast: Ed Begley Jr., Scott Weinger, Sarah Lassez, Natasha Gregson Wagner, James Cromwell, Jeremy Sisto, Jordan Blake Warkol, Sharon Lawrence, Jon Polito, Bobby Slayton, Rich Ducommun, David Pasquesi.
  • Music By: