In a fresh spin on the talking dog genre, a boy can hear his dog’s thoughts after a science experiment goes wrong in “Think Like a Dog.”
Ollie (Gabriel Bateman) is a junior-high science whiz who’s developed technology that can, in theory, read people’s thoughts. He’s determined to impress his idol, major tech innovator Ram Mills (“Big Bang Theory”‘s Kunal Nayyar), who’s attending the school science fair. But when the experiment flops, Ollie and his friend Xiao (Neo Hooo) try it again — this time using Ollie’s dog Henry as the subject.
Henry the Labradoodle (enthusiastically voiced by Todd Stashwick) narrates the film, describing himself as an “impossibly handsome, clever, uncomplicated dog.” Now that he can read Henry’s thoughts, Ollie learns that dogs have always been able to understand humans, it’s just that humans didn’t understand dogs.
What dogs know is apparently up for grabs: Henry can riff on Joe Pesci’s “I’m a clown” bit from “Goodfellas,” but Ollie has to explain what “divorce” means. Because Ollie’s parents — Megan Fox and Josh Duhamel — are considering splitting up.
It’s up to Ollie and Henry to teach his parents how to “think like a dog,” that is, remember the simple things in life like love and family. And to urge Ollie to say what’s on his mind, including asking the girl he likes to the school dance.
Of course, there are several parties interested in Ollie’s device, including Mills and what appears to be a shadowy government agency. Ultimately, it’s up to Henry and his dog pals to save the day.
It’s an adventure very much along the lines of Disney’s original “The Shaggy Dog,” so it’s probably best suited for younger kids. Classic Disney dogs like Pongo and Perdita or Lady and the Tramp never went in for fart jokes, but Henry is a big fan.
The dogs are all real: If there’s any CG, it’s very well done. And, happily, no dogs come to any harm, making this a very family-friendly movie.
While Henry is as charming as promised, some of the funniest bits are thanks to Bryan Callen, of “MAD TV” fame, a government agent who really throws himself into his cover roles.
“Think Like a Dog” is now available on VOD.
Rating: 2.5 out of 4 paws
Behind the scenes: The animal coordinator and dog trainer on the film is Sarah Clifford, whose previous credits include “The Artist” and “Pups United.” The film received Humane Hollywood’s “No Animals Were Harmed” rating.