Making the Grades
No amount of tummy rubs, chew toys, or fire hydrants will make Spot (voice of Nathan Lane) content with his dog life. In September, the insolent pup decides to give up those nasty habits and pulls on a pair of pants. Tucking his ears under a beanie, he followed his master, Leonard Helperman (Shaun Fleming), to school.
Working under the assumed name of Scott, it didn't take long for the dog-boy to become the coolest and smartest kid in the grade four class. Even more amazing, Scott's classmates never detected his canine heritage, nor does his teacher, who is also Leonard's mother. (This family really needs to see a good optometrist )
But being top dog wasn't enough. Now it's summer and Spot or Scott is suffering from a severe case of Pinocchio syndrome, and wants nothing short of becoming a real boy. Parking himself in front of a trashy TV talk show, he discovers his "blue fairy"-a quack doctor from Florida who claims he can turn animals into humans.
Fortunately, Mrs. Helperman (Debra Jo Rupp) is also headed to Florida to claim a teaching award. Dressed as Scott, the dog catches a ride with the Helperman's, but doesn't reveal his true motive in joining them. However, the gig is up shortly after arriving in the Sunshine State. Not willing to fetch Leonard's stick, the personified pooch turns tail and heads for Dr. Krank's (Kelsey Grammer) office, leaving his heartbroken owner alone on the beach.
Unaware of the mad scientist's past failures (fondly known as Dennis the alligator-boy and Adele the mosquito-girl), Spot puts himself under the humanizing beam. A flick of the switch later and well lets just say, "Results may vary."
Founded in 2000 as a Saturday morning cartoon on ABC and now living on cable's Toon Disney, Teacher's Pet is drawn in a simplistic style unique to its creator Gary Baseman. Representing a somewhat "watered down" version of Baseman's more eccentric gallery art, the visuals play homage to a variety of previous Disney animations. Some, like Pinocchio, are obvious parallels to the story, while most of the other reported 714 sight gags (like the many "hidden Mickeys") are more subtle.
Thanks to a writing team with years of television sitcom experience, this film opens with a surprising punch that is a little "spoofical"-especially when the characters break into song and are surrounded by a bevy of little woodland creatures, 0xE0 la Bambi. Other musical numbers solicit snappy comebacks, usually from Spot/Scott ("What is it with this family and singing? I'm starting to feel Von Trapped!").
That exuberant pacing and dual level humor, keeping both children and their parents amused, begins to run out of steam after the first half hour when the villain becomes a major part of the story. The rest of the plot falls into the typical Saturday morning genre upon which it is built.
Often cheeky, but never distasteful, Teacher's Pet promotes the importance of being happy with who and what you are, and-thanks to one song, may even have you memorizing the fifty states. Aside from a few moments of animated slapstick violence and a hyperactive style, most parents of older children and teens will be okay leaving their students with this teacher.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Teacher’s Pet.
What do you wish you could change about yourself? If you could make that change, would it truly make you better or happier? How do we know when a change is an improvement?
You can learn more about the origin of “hidden Mickeys” at www.hiddenmickeys.org.