By Lisa Schwarzbaum
Updated August 08, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT
The Shaggy Dog: Joseph Lederer

To those who would growl that The Shaggy Dog is yet another Disney squeeze toy in which Tim Allen embodies yet another dad who, through comic misadventure, learns to become a better husband and father, I bark this: Do not underestimate the pleasure of watching the fellow, dressed in the suit and tie of a sober deputy DA, plunge his head into a bowl of cereal and milk to eat his breakfast doggy-style. True, the kennel that produced the original Shaggy Dog in 1959 and The Shaggy D.A. in 1976 has devised a rather droolly and PC update on the notion of a man turned into man’s best friend after being bitten by a magical pooch. (Here, dog-averse Allen prosecutes an animal activist for criminal activity against a science laboratory, only to learn on all fours how cruel and anti-PETA the place is.)

But the star, unleashed, is so energetic in his approximation of a bearded collie — his nose sniffing the air, his whole being (which toggles between human and canine form) overcome by the need to fetch any stick thrown — that his slobbery charm carries the picture. Besides, those allergic to lessons in improving family communication can draw pleasure from Robert Downey Jr., in prime crazypants form, as the lab’s power-hungry evil genius.