Rating: * *
Verdict: It barks like one.

Calling middle-agers John Travolta and Robin Williams old dogs may seem a bit harsh, few Hollywood actresses would agree to be in a film with a similar title. After seeing this forced and humourless family comedy, however, you realise silly old dogs would have been more appropriate, and they could still consider themselves to have got off lightly.

The first red flag that Old Dogs may not be this duo's best work is the film being promoted as "from the director of Wild Hogs". As expected, it doesn't matter how hard they try, neither star can make this film fly.

Aimed at the whole family, Old Dogs is like Daddy Daycare, The Pacifier or any other story about an ill-equipped adult male left in charge of children. This time with a couple of urban middle-aged bachelors.

Charlie (Travolta) is the fun-loving one, full of embarrassing pick-up lines he uses on women half his age and who is prone to using hip-hop slang. His business partner Dan (Williams) is not so lucky with the ladies, a divorcee he's a sweet but useless romantic. On the verge of their biggest business deal ever, their lives are turned upside down when Dan discovers he's the father of 6-year-old twins Zach and Emily, and finds he must take care of them for a few weeks.

Obviously, the set up is ridiculous. Yes, Williams is taken back to learn he's a father, but it's hard to imagine the children's mother Vicki (played by Travolta's wife Kelly Preston), who had kept their existence a secret, would suddenly leave her precious kids with a stranger and his sleazy best friend.

The kids are also a little too well adjusted, and don't seem overly concerned about being left with a couple of blokes they've just met. They very sweetly accept Dan as their dad, and turn up to meet him not with a list of questions such as "where have you been for the last six years?" but a list of corny "dad" things they'd like to do with him, such as going camping. The film gets sillier and sillier as Charlie and Dan engage in a series of activities so they can bond with Zach and Emily.

Unfortunately, no matter how easily Williams and Travolta tackle slapstick, few of their gags are funny.

Seth Green, Bernie Mac, Matt Dillon and Justin Long all turn up and try hard to make something of this film, but it never gels. With a great cast who were obviously keen to work together, it's amazing that someone couldn't come up with something better than this.

Cast: John Travolta, Robin Williams, Seth Green
Director: Walt Becker
Running time: 90 mins
Rating: PG (Low Level Violence)