They say an actor should never work with animals or children. But a kid and a talking dog are the best things about this otherwise pretty hopeless attempt at a Jason Bourne-style adventure for under-nines, set in the cool world of tech. Gabriel Bateman is very likable as a teenage science whiz, but he has his work cut out in scenes opposite his screen mum and dad – a pair of terrifically wooden performances by Megan Fox and Josh Duhamel.
Bateman is 13-year-old Oliver, the star pupil at a school for superbrains. He has spent months making a telepathy machine for his school science fair. After a spot of hacking to power up, his machine causes a power surge, Oliver discovers he can communicate with his pet dog Henry (voiced by Todd Stashwick as a lovable cheerful wisecracker). Pretty soon, the FBI’s cyber security unit is on his tail. An eccentric tech billionaire (Kunal Nayyar) is sniffing around, too. Oliver’s mum and dad are too distracted by their failing marriage to notice – the two are meant to be at the eye-rolling stage of mutual contempt, but Fox and Duhamel look so blank it’s hard to tell.
It’s nice to see a world in which geeks really might be taking over. At Oliver’s specialist technology school, even the bully is a nerd (“I’m going to crush you like Edison crushed Tesla”). But this film isn’t really about science. Pretty soon the script melts into a syrupy slush of a storyline about how Henry the dog can teach the emotionally inferior humans a thing or two about what really matters. Low IQ entertainment whatever your age.
• Think Like a Dog is available on digital platforms from 6 July.