Teacher's Pet: A silly yet charming little animated film.


I always got to admire it whenever an animated film based on a TV show is made. It's quite a challenge to make as you have to make a story that would fit for a film and not just a 30-minute episode as well as make a film that would appeal to fans and nonfans alike. There have been tons of them throughout the years and many of them have been quite good and I think one that could fit that criteria is "Teacher's Pet". Released in 2004, this film was the film adaptation of the Disney Channel cartoon of the same name and I found it quite enjoyable with its silly charm and simple nature. It's not a perfect film by any means and I wouldn't call it one of my favorite animated films based on a TV show, but I'd say it's a decent one that'll entertain whoever's curious.


A dog named Spot (Nathan Lane) is desperately wanting to become a real-life boy. For a year, he has been going to school with his master Leonard (Shaun Fleming) dressed up as a boy named Scott and being taught by Scott's own mother Mary Lou (Debra Jo Rupp). On the last day of school, Mary Lou has revealed to be nominated for a Teacher of the Year award in Florida and the principal has loaned her his Winnebago as a reward though stipulating that no dogs are allowed in the RV. Spot and Leonard are heartbroken until Spot discovers on TV that a mad scientist in Florida named Dr. Ivan Krank (Kelsey Grammar) is attempting to turn animals into humans. Spot gets an idea to come to Florida dressed up as Scott and sets off to achieve his dream not knowing what he's getting into.


I confess that I'm someone who hasn't watched an episode of the show and really only knows the general premise so I went into this film with not much expectation on what I would expect and I came out enjoying it. As I said at the beginning of my review, it's not a perfect animated film and I do think I probably would have liked this film a bit more had I seen the TV show first, but for what it's worth I did enjoy it. I really enjoyed how silly the story and most of the humor. It's quite a simple story and one that takes some bizarre turns, but I think it pays off for the most part. It's sweet and simple and I like a film that sticks with that. It also lends itself to some funny scenes with one of my favorites taking place in a diner where Spot poses as Scott's family trying to persuade Mary Lou to bring him along on the trip and switching into many different costumes to pull it off. Even though it's a setup that has been done before in other comedies, for some reason I was able to get a laugh from it here. I do wish that the story was given a bit more meat to it as the film does feel rather short which led to it having a rather abrupt climax and ending that probably should've been worked on a bit more. Even the message doesn't hold up entirely well as it does in 2004 though I don't think it was a huge problem for me. As far as the animation goes, I did admire most of it. The show was co-created by Gary Busman who you may know for designing the board game "Cranium" and his weird work is on full display here. His character designs are so unique and I really loved how bizarre and colorful the world looked. I also really loved the backgrounds and how they had a distinctive hand-painted look. You can really see the canvas and brushstrokes in this film and it was a treat to view. I will say that I do think some of the shots do look a bit awkward though and I think the film probably shouldn't have used as many close-up shots though that's really the only problem I had with the animation. I also think most of the characters were fun which I think came down to the fantastic vocal performances. Nathan Lane in particular is just a delight as Spot. He's such a fun character to watch and Lane takes the part seriously and doesn't phone it in. He gives him such warmth and delightful presence that the film needs and I really admire him for that. Ivan Crank also made for a funny villain who is frustrated with everyone calling him a wacko and wanting to be proven he knows what he's doing despite his previous experiments consisting of a mutated alligator and mosquito named Dennis (Paul Reubens) and Adele (Megan Mullaly) being less than stellar. As far as the other characters go, I don't know if they entirely worked for me but that could be because I haven't seen the show. Leonard and Mary Lou did have their moments and I did love the chemistry that Leonard had with Spot, and even Leonard's other pets including a cat named Mr. Jolly (David Ogden Stiers) and a bird named Pretty Boy (Jerry Stiller) did get some laughs from me even though I think their characters didn't add much to the film's story. I also should mention the film is a musical and it's a decent one at that. This film does have some fun musical numbers including a random number where Spot, Leonard, and Mary Lou sing the names of all fifty states when traveling to Florida and it's where the wacky visuals really get a chance to shine. I do wish the film lessened the number of times it acknowledged it was a musical like where the characters say they'll sing about it. It was funny the first few times, but it got stale after a while.


In the end, I thought "Teacher's Pet" was a decent animated film based on a TV show. The story while short had its moments, the animation was wacky and beautiful to look at, the characters had some fun moments even if some could've used more screen time, and the songs were mostly fun. I do give this film a slight recommendation for those curious and I might be curious enough to check out the show in the future. This was a fun little animated film and I enjoyed it quite a bit.


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