Monday, October 22, 2012

A Dog and His Dolphin: "Zeus and Roxanne" (1997)



George Miller directs this family film about a scrappy, mangy mongrel who falls in love with a graceful creature way out of his league- and species...but enough about Steve Guttenberg and Kathleen Quinlan.

Zeus is the dog belonging to widower Terry (Steve Guttenberg) and son Jordan (Miko Hughes). Roxanne is the dolphin being studied by Mary Beth (Kathleen Quinlan), when she isn't busy running after her bratty daughters Judith (Majandra Delfino) and Nora (Jessica Howell). Dog and dolphin meet in the opening scene of the film and the two seem to share a special bond that is never fully explored by the screenwriter.

Terry and Mary Beth happen to live across the street from each other, and Zeus follows Mary Beth to work to see Roxanne. We also meet our villain, Dr. Carver (Arnold Vosloo), who pens his dolphins to study them instead of letting them frolic in the open sea like Roxanne does. Mary Beth decides to apply for a grant to study inter-species communication after seeing Zeus and Roxanne's interaction.

Judith, Nora, and Jordan set Terry and Mary Beth up on a date that goes so well the kids decide shacking up would be the next logical step in the relationship. Terry has second thoughts (making one wonder where his first thoughts are since both adults are shamelessly manipulated by their offspring), and bolts with boy and dog, while Roxanne acts out in her own way. We can't have a story without some conflict, so Carver steals Mary Beth's idea and tries interspecies with his own dolphins and animals (in the film's only funny scene). Zeus escapes Terry and Jordan and heads back to Roxanne, while the dolphin is rumored dead and Mary Beth goes looking for her.

If I needed to describe "Zeus and Roxanne" with one word, that word would be "mild." The film makers saw their target audience, the family, and dumbed down every aspect of the production. What is produced is a bland saltine of a movie more at home on the ABC Family Channel, sandwiched in between reruns of "Full House."

Terry and Jordan, two of the film's lead characters, really don't have to be here at all! Zeus could have been a stray dog discovered by Mary Beth, and the main plot of the film (dog and dolphin) could have remained intact. Instead, Terry is an immature musician cared for by Jordan, whose photographs of Zeus reminded me of early Robert Mapplethorpe. So we must suffer through the pulp romance mechanics of Mary Beth and Terry's courtship, while dog and dolphin take a back seat to the humans.

Kathleen Quinlan is actually quite good here. While her character is not as straight laced and prudish as I imagine she was conceived to be, she is the best thing going here. Guttenberg is given nothing here, forcing that silly grin and probably wondering what the hell happened between "Cocoon" and this. The Bahamas location and underwater photography are both beautiful, as it would be hard to muck that up.

Unfortunately, director Miller is as mechanical with his direction as Tom Benedek is with his screenplay. Endless shots of the animals doing adorable things gets old after a while. Bruce Rowland's high pitched musical score is so bad, I kept muting my television, ready to blame the neighbors for playing their stereo too loud.

The funniest aspect of this film is the breathless blurb on the back of the VHS box from none other that quotewhore Jeffrey Lyons, who salivates: "A charmer! Zeus and Roxanne will melt your hearts- and parents will enjoy it, guaranteed!" You know, if I had not checked this out from the library for free, I would be tempted to write Lyons and demand my video rental fee be refunded toot sweet. Throw back "Zeus and Roxanne." (* *) out of five stars. Watch this movie now!: Zeus and Roxanne