Nathan Lane voices Spot, a dog who desperately wants to be a boy (dig the Pinocchio nod at the beginning of the film) while his boy, Leonard Helperman, desperately wants Spot to be a dog.
Spot comes across mad scientist Ivan Crank, voiced expertly by Kelsey Grammer, while watching a Jerry Springer-like show on TV and decides to disguise himself and hitch a ride with the Helpermans to find Crank.
Jerry Stiller and David Ogden Stiers also turn in wonderful performances as Spot’s pet compatriots that come to the rescue when Spot, thanks to the disparity between human and dog years, is turned into a hairy middle-aged guy with back pain.
In the end it all works out (it’s Disney after all) but the film veers far from normal so often that you don’t mind.
The music is simply wonderful throughout. The song in which Leonard and his mother, played with goofy glee by Debra Jo Rupp, go through every state in the union is especially brilliant and deserves at least a few viewings to catch all of the jokes.
But for me, the best part of the film was simply the Baseman vibe. It’s such a welcome departure from most animated films that it’s like a cartoon Altoid for your head.
While Teacher’s Pet is still certainly a kid’s film first, there are enough hip, intelligent, and deftly hidden jokes that observant adults will be rewarded too.