Old Dogs

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Short takes

Lacks interest and not recommended under 8; parental guidance to 10 (themes and violence)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Old Dogs
  • a review of Old Dogs completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 6 January 2010.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 8 Not recommended due to lack of interest and violence
Children 8-10 Parental guidance recommended due to themes and violence
Children 11 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Old Dogs
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes and comedic violence
Length: 88 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Dan (Robin Williams) is a successful business man on the cusp of a multi-million dollar business deal when he receives a phone call from Vicki (Kelly Preston), a woman he married for one night seven years before during a hazy night out with his best mate and business partner, Charlie (John Travolta).  Vicki shares news of the 7 year old twins Dan fathered from that night and encourages him to meet the twins, Emily (Ella Bleu Travolta) and Zac (Connor Rayburn).

The story becomes complicated when Vicki has to go to jail for two weeks on a peaceful protesting charge and her babysitter is injured.  Dan and Charlie step in to look after the children for the two weeks, Dan as the overprotective and anxious new dad and Charlie as the irresponsible but sensitive uncle. This is a recipe for silly adventures and humorous incidents as Dan learns about the ups and downs of being a dad.


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Children with a parent in jail; children separated from their mother and left with someone they hardly know; death of a beloved dog

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is frequent comedic violence and accidental harm in this movie including:

  • Dan accidentally shuts the car boot on the babysitter’s hands and when the boot opens it hits her in the face, putting her into hospital with an array of injuries
  • An aggressive interaction between Charlie and another man at the children’s scout camping weekend.  The other man is provocative and accusatory towards Charlie.
  • Dan accidentally punches another man in the face and it bleeds profusely.
  • A very aggressive game of Frisbee where a group of men tackle, punch, stomp and hurt one another.  Blood is seen.
  • Dan accidentally shoots off the head of the scout mascot and later accidentally sets it on fire.
  • Dan plays golf with three other people and twice he hits a golf ball into the groin of two of the men, causing a lot of pain.
  • Dan, Charlie and their work colleague break into a zoo and fall into a gorilla enclosure.  The gorilla attacks , but takes a liking to the colleague and cuddles him.  The others escape.
  • Dan and Charlie are stuck in a penguin enclosure and Charlie is attacked by the penguins.
  • Dan flies a superhero flying contraption but falls and hurts himself.  He is seen being taken away by ambulance.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  •  A brief scene from Friday the 13th is shown
  • Charlie’s dog of 14 years dies.  A dog funeral is held.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group may also be disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

In addition to the above mentioned violent and disturbing scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • There is a scene of a bereavement group where death is talked about.  One person talks about their loved one’s cancer and the ‘excruciating pain’ she was in.

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

No additional scenes

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

  • Apple Computers
  • Nissan
  • Volvo
  • Sharp
  • Casio
  • Nikon

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • There are a lot of references to flirting, including Dan and Charlie in Miami on a boys night picking up girls who  have been drinking quite a bit, Charlie flirting with a waitress at a restaurant, and Charlie flirting overtly with a translator they meet at work
  • There are a few references throughout the movie to Dan and Charlie being in a homosexual relationship.  This is subtle and is unlikely to be noticed by younger children
  • It is inferred that Dan and Vicki have sex on the night they meet.  Again this is subtle and may not be noticed by younger children

Nudity and sexual activity

None of concern

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Dan and Charlie are seen drinking on multiple occasions
  • Dan and Charlie get drunk in Miami and talk to young women who are also drunk
  • Dan and Charlie accidentally swap their medications and have extreme reactions from taking the wrong medication

Coarse language

There is some mild coarse language in this movie, including:

  • idiot
  • poop
  • Good Lord
  • God help us
  • stupid
  • butt
  • loser

In a nutshell

Old Dogs is a comedy about family commitment.

The main messages from this movie are the importance of family, honesty, and friendship.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • loyalty
  • choosing family over his work.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as

  • Vicki’s jail term for peaceful protesting
  • Vicki not telling Dan about the children for seven years
  • “Shotgun” marriages