Teacher's Pet ★★½

Teacher’s Pet is an animated feature film based on the TV-series of the same name. The Disney comedy show was a moderate success back in 2000 but this theatrical release, that acted as a finale, was considered a flop. The story follows Spot the dog who desperately wants to be a boy. Everyday he dresses up as a human and goes to school much to the annoyance of his owner who just wants a regular dog. In the film he finally gets his wish thanks to the help of an evil scientist.

I had watched a handful of episodes but it’s not a show I remembered with any great fondness and this film has done little to change my opinion. For a Disney production it is surprisingly subversive with a rapid stream of gags that will probably go over the heads of a younger audience. From the throwaway lines and numerous film and literary references it rattles through the material at an amazing rate. Naturally some work better than others but you can’t knock the film for its lack of jokes.

Unfortunately this relentlessness can become a little tiring. It suits the 30-minute format but when stretched to feature length it just ends up wearing you out. The whole style of the production is exaggerated and in your face from beginning to end. Embracing pop surrealism (the series was co-created by Gary Baseman) it is a film that references past styles whilst feeling incredibly current. It’s a really arresting style, particularly because it is so unlike the traditional Disney style, and matched by a committed vocal cast led by Nathan Lane.

The story takes some interesting diversions (for example, when turned into a human, Spot is revealed to be a middle aged man with a paunch because he has aged in dog years) but then doesn’t do anything with them, and despite throwing in everything bar the kitchen sink the story feels oddly repetitive. Teacher’s Pet manages to be both annoying and entertaining, often in the same scene, but I’d suggest trying the TV-series first.