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Archie steals the show!
18 July 2002
Warning: Spoilers
***SLIGHT SPOILERS*** Archie the dog is a Welsh Terrier (the breed resembles a miniature Airedale terrier), although his head looks very much like a schnauzer to me. The dog is just a plain and simple dog. I mean, even though he's certainly one of the main characters, he doesn't act part human, as many movie dogs do today. He's mischievous, he's a thief, he's playful, he's heroic, he did what he's been trained to do, he didn't do what he was told to do--he's a 100% dog! All the good and bad and endearing qualities. Although he just acts like a dog, he did it in front of the camera, for most of the movie, so I'd say the little guy was a good actor, with a good trainer. However, I think the sound people wanted to ruin the little guy's credibility, because they added all kinds of weird noises to him, that he obviously was not making.

There were a few strange elements in the movie. The police were ridiculous, refusing to listen to the story, when it was so obvious that the dog obviously had something to do with the murders. Then there was the case of Mr. Denny and the dog. Put simply, the dog followed him home. He didn't tell his wife that he hadn't brought the dog because she thought it was an anniversary present for her. But when everything got complicated, it would have been the best thing to do to just tell his wife everything. Hopefully he's not such a liar that his wife wouldn't believe him. I realize he did try to tell her, but it was just silly not to let her know right at the very beginning.

The people were okay, although some of their relationships were a little confusing. The husband seemed madly in love with his wife, but the wife seemed manipulative and stand-offish, half the time accusing him and half the time defending him. I suppose this could be a realistic relationship, but there seemed to be something missing in their relationship--chemistry, or maybe it was just poor acting.

Especially among the bad guys, I had a lot of trouble figuring out who was who and what exactly the heist was that they were trying to pull off. There was so much spying and back biting and mix ups. . . well, I was totally mixed up. But despite not knowing where all the bad guys stood in relation to each other, I knew they were all bad, so I understood it well enough in the end.
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Pleasantville (1998)
Does this Movie Have a Point?
17 July 2002
Every commercial I debated whether I should turn this movie off. Finally I decided that perhaps it was going somewhere, and it would be interesting to see where it was going. Well, it went nowhere.

I'll admit, it was very funny at some points. The naivety of the people could be very funny.

The actors were good. I've become a fan of Tobey Maguire even though I haven't liked either of the movies I've seen him in.

Nevertheless, this movie made no sense. Even if you call it a fairytale, fairytales live by rules, too. If there were no rules in a fairytale there would be no conflict because the hero would just think the dragon defeated. All worlds need rules. I can be led into accepting, for the sake of the story, that two kids can be sucked into the TV world. This is acceptable for the fairytale. But in the end, a rule was broken. It made no sense. I kept repeating, "they can't do that!" They didn't explain how it could be done, or what the results were--the movie just ended. They broke a rule and didn't explain it to make it believable.

I was bored throughout the movie. The ending just made me extremely annoyed.
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Dog's Best Friend (1997 TV Movie)
Combines Elements of Several Animal Movies Without the Magic
12 July 2002
Plotwise, this movie VERY much resembled the recent Lassie movie. Angry city kid forced to live in country in the childhood home of his deceased mother, falls in love with a girl who he goes to the fair with, bullies like to beat him up in unfair fights, and saves the day. . . besides the canine element. In other ways, it was similar to Babe, the original talking animal movie. Also, in that Wiley, the kid talks to the farm animals, seems a lot like Charlotte's Web.

These two movies, Lassie and Babe, and book, Charlotte's Web, though, are fun children's movies with silly but endearing plots, but Dog's Best Friend seemed to have a rather forced plot, as if they're straining to get this movie working. The animals don't seem realistic. Yes, they talk, but so do the animals in Babe and Homeward Bound, but those animals seem as though they could really be saying these things. But not these animals. The characters that the voices create do not seem to flow with who the animals really are, what they would be saying and thinking whether or not a human could understand them.

The human actors are pretty good. The grandmother's character, played by Shirley Jones, is very eccentric, and at first I was concerned that she would be an idiot, but I was pleased that her character was developed beyond being "eccentric." Indeed, I think that the grandparents were the best actors in the movie. However, I felt that the science professor, billed as "Bobcat Goldthwaite," basically ruined the whole movie. Not only does he make it perhaps inappropriate for young children in a dramatic kissing display, but he acts like a complete idiot who just escaped from the looney bin. He knows NOTHING about science, and yet he is supposed to teach science at the high school? Even hick towns have better than this! He doesn't even have the brains to figure out that he has a smudge on his glasses and that there is nothing flying around in front of his face. His voice is shrill and completely annoying. He obviously has no life, as he spends late hours in the science lab at the high school conducting pseudo-science experiments. Furthermore, there is no character development into his character (is it fair to call this a character?) and every time this idiot came on screen I resisted the urge to turn off the movie.

Aside from the idiot science professor, which greatly exasperated me, this movie isn't that bad, despite it's copycat of several other movies.
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Yesteryear's Low Budget Film
10 July 2002
Don't get me wrong. I like family movies, and love kids movies, especially the ones with dogs. Today, kids movies tend to be full of foolish gags (Cruella DeVil falls in a giant muffin maker, etc.) But yesteryear's kid's movies seem to consist of almost sickeningly sweet people. They're not perfect, but in the end, they do the right thing (to the dot), and EVERYTHING works out, everyone is best friends, and everyone is better for this adventure. I think the movie makers were working very hard to teach every little boy and girl good morals and manners. Not that this is bad but I think they could do it a little less obviously, and make the people a little bit more. . . human.

Yes, it gets a little sickeningly sweet. Danny Mitchell's (the main character) family is perfect in every respect. Watching them interact makes it so obvious that this is only a movie. Who would really talk like that?!? His parents always know what's best to do and are always perfect. They help those less fortunate themselves, and give Danny good advice (being careful to discreetly say "I told you so" afterward he doesn't follow it).

It's not realistic. But nonetheless, I do appreciate the values that it has, despite the fact that the people are a little too perfect. There are too many movies nowadays with broken homes and disturbed families. It's a nice picture of small town life, even if it's not quite accurate.

Flame the Wonder Dog plays Rusty. He is a very good actor and has several fun tricks in his repertoire. Rusty, too, is perhaps a little too perfect as a dog, but not too much. I think perhaps it's a fairly accurate portrayal of a boy's dog who was constantly by his master's side, and was able to learn a lot through several years of his master's training. Besides, very few dog movies DON'T have a dog that is at least a little extraordinary.

Not the best of the "Rusty" series, but it is not bad as a kid's movie. Good values, clean fun.
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The Duke (1999)
Silly but Fun
9 July 2002
The Duke is a very silly film--a dog becoming a duke! But it's a very fun movie. It has some of those corny pranks that many kids movies have, but (thankfully!) no bodily function jokes, as so many animal movies feel compelled to have! Mostly, it's just dogs being dogs and people being. . . well, people. The 'good guys' are likeable and appealing. The 'bad guys' are ridiculous, and of course, the pun of many jokes. But there is something dignified about this movie, for even though it is silly, it's not out for every cheap laugh like "Home Alone" and others.

Crocket, Simon and Copper do an excellent job playing Black and Tan Coonhound "Hubert" who becomes the Duke after his beloved owner, a real Duke, dies. For the most part, they just act like dogs, no 'talking,' or human-like emotions and attitudes. However, they do stereotype poodles, and Hubert does fall for her, just because she's a poodle. Come on! These are dogs--they have a different view of beauty!!!

Overall, charming, fun and enjoyable.
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Owd Bob (1998)
Not half as good as the book
9 July 2002
Alfred Ollivant wrote the book "Owd Bob, Son of Battle," an excellent dog story. This movie is the third or fourth retelling of it. They've basically butchered the book. This movie twisted up all of the characters and the story of Ollivant's book. This is not always bad, but I don't think it added anything to the story in this case.

The dogs are central to this story. Although they are attractive Border Collies, many aspects of the dogs are very inaccurate. For example, one of the main plot lines of the story deals with a killer dog--a dog that kills sheep. In sheep country, a dog who kills sheep is totally unacceptable and would be shot immediately. I suppose in a rare case an owner may find out and try to hide it, but even this is very rare. These are working dogs, and a working dog can't be a sheep killer. It's an instant death warrant. Furthermore, these sheep killers get smart. If they kill a sheep and come home with blood on their face and fleece in their teeth they KNOW they'll be shot. They clean up. But the sheep killer in this movie keeps coming back to his owner with a bloody face, and his owner cleans him up, and keeps quiet. This movie totally ignores this basic fact.

Furthermore, when the dogs are in the sheepherding competition, one of the dogs (not a main character) herds sheep excellently. But when the main character dogs begin their sheepherding, it's pathetic. The dog is just shown jumping up and down somewhere in the vicinity of the sheep. He doesn't even seem to realize the sheep are there. Border collies have VERY strong instincts, and if they are around sheep, even if they're movie dogs, the sheep should attract and hold their attention. But this dog doesn't even seem to care that sheep are there, which is very strange for a Border Collie. They could have at least dyed the coat of another dog and shown the dog actually herding. The herding of a good sheepdog is a beautiful sight, and this left me very disappointed.

One last point on the dogs. The dog, Zac, is supposed to be aggressive and hate people. However, it only looks like he was cued by his trainer to jump up and bark. He doesn't give a terribly believable performance.

Besides these, the story itself wasn't terrible, but I didn't feel like the characters were very realistic. There seemed to be a lot of emotions--crying, running, screaming. . . But I didn't feel like the characters were developed as well as they could be.

All of this considered, it's not a bad family film. Good values, beautiful dogs, great scenery, okay plot. Perhaps worth seeing, perhaps worth buying if your as dog crazy as I am.
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Yankee Zulu (1993)
They Call This Entertainment?!?
9 July 2002
The acting in this movie was dreadful, and the characters were very poorly constructed. They expect me to believe that anyone would actually act like this?!? I know some movies have silly pranks that ARE amusing (101 Dalmatians, Home Alone) but these were just pathetic.

The jokes were vulgar and crass. I was offended and sickened throughout the entire movie. How could they dare release this to video? If I'd been involved in this movie I'd want to bury it, quick, along with all the body function jokes.

The people are supposed to be funny, but they act like idiots. Don't waste your time or money. Incredibly pathetic. Only redeeming quality is the animals, who were pretty good actors (despite the weird noises they added to the animals). Unfortunately, there weren't enough animals throughout the piece to make it worthwhile. Stay clear of this one!
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Chips, the War Dog (1990 TV Movie)
True War Dog Hero--Disney Style
9 July 2002
This movie is a great Disney classic. Chips was indeed a real war hero. In the movie, Chips is a purebred German Shepherd Dog, but the real Chips was a mixed breed. The dogs are good actors and well trained, accurately portraying the dogs through several stages of training all the way to becoming war dogs.

Both Danny and Chips have been created as believable and enjoyable characters and it is fun to watch as their friendship develops. It is great that Disney made a tribute to these oft-forgotten war heroes. A family film well worth seeing.
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Too much focus on Charlton Heston--WARNING!!! SPOILER!
9 July 2002
Warning: Spoilers
If you've read the book it's not a spoiler.

This movie doesn't work because too much focus is put on Charlton Heston. He's up in the Arctic, falling in love, delivering mail, and you begin to think that he is the main character. But in actuality, the dog is the main character. Jack London makes this clear. The story stays on Buck, the dog, throughout the whole book. While this movie does center on Buck, most of the movie also centers on Thornton, Heston's character.

In the book, Buck is stolen from his home in California and sold up north, where sled dogs sell for top dollar. Buck is beaten and abused, but unlike most pets sold as sled dogs, Buck survives and grows strong. In the end, Buck is so mistreated and abused he can barely stand. This is when his one good master, and last master, Thornton, rescues him. They thrive together. But Buck keeps feeling the 'call of the wild,' but he wouldn't leave his beloved master. Eventually, Thornton is killed, and Buck answers the 'call of the wild.' With this story, it's obvious that the dog is the main character. After all, Thornton is only in the end, and he dies.

But in this movie, Thornton is too much of a main character, and when he dies in the end, as he must, for the movie is, "The Call of the Wild," it leaves one angry at the movie if you haven't read the book and aren't expecting it.

Aside from this, weird, creepy music plays throughout the whole film. The acting is mediocre and not terribly enjoyable. At this time, in the North, there were no airplanes or anything. If you wanted to get anywhere, it was either by boat or dogsled. There were dogs everywhere. At one point, Thornton and his team mush into a town where there are no sled dogs (so his dogs are stolen). This is absolutely ridiculous. A superior sled dog team may be stolen, but to find a town with no sled dogs?!? Ludicrous!

Not one of Charlton Heston's best films. The dogs aren't given the best roles, but they are still a joy to watch.
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Enjoyable Family Film
9 July 2002
The Adventures of Rusty is about a boy struggling through the remarriage of his father. When he finds an aggressive and untrusting German Shepherd, Rusty, he starts training him to be his pet. The resentment and distrust that Danny Mitchell feels towards his new 'mother' parallels Rusty's distrust of Danny and the world.

Ace the Wonder Dog gives a great performance as 'Rusty.' There are no obvious places where they added noises to the dog (growls, yelps, barks, etc.) His performance is very believable. That dog is a good actor and very well trained.

At times this movie can be a little melodramatic, and has a fairly predictable ending, although it does add a few unexpected elements. The Germans aren't viewed in a terribly favorable light, but that is to be expected, as this film was made during World War II. Rusty was a German dog. Although it does exactly say why he was so aggressive, it implies that the German methods create a fearsome, untrusting dog. This, of course, would be a generalization, but German dog training methods as a general rule are stricter (although it doesn't create aggressive dogs).

Nothing incredible about this movie, but it is fun to watch with a solid script, good values, fair acting and great dogs.
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