Did anyone want a remake of a bad 1974 movie about a dog who saves two kidnapped children? Did anyone even remember that movie existed? [Editor’s Note: They did not.]
These rhetorical questions didn’t stop Netflix from bringing the live-action animal movies—not the ones where they CGI the mouth moving so animals can talk like Beverly Hills Chihuahua or Disney’s version of a live-action animal movie where everything is CGI like the new version of The Jungle Book—straight into the 21st century. No, Netflix subscribers were not so lucky. Instead, Benji popped up on suggested movies for basically anyone whose children use the same Netflix profile as they do. At least the dog is pretty cute.
Benji is a children’s movie about a small, yet tough dog who befriends two young children. When these children are kidnapped by the most annoying criminals in the world, Benji the dog will stop at nothing to save them (read: through the most contrived and convenient plot devices since ancient Greek theatre).
The problem—well, one of them at least—with this movie is that it is just mostly fine. The child actors are mostly fine. The other characters are mostly fine. Everything in this movie is either pretty tolerable or fairly annoying. For children, this will be a decent movie to put on in order to while away the hours until something good comes out. For everyone else, it’s just annoying and blessedly short (80 minutes).
But, since a lot of this movie is pretty generic, let’s point out all the bad things.
This movie begins with an attempt at seriousness. It does not succeed with this attempt. Instead, the opening scene is one of the most absurdly funny parts of this movie. After an opening credit by Blumhouse Productions—the production company known best for producing horror movies—Benji begins.
It was a dark night when the dogcatcher came to the bad part of town. The camera pans down to reveal a flickering neon sign that casts a gloomy shadow over the darkened and dirty alleyway. The door to the truck opens, and two boots hit the ground—aside: the force which this person had to have exerted in order to make the boots hit the ground so loudly and so strongly as to kick up all of this dust would have necessitated them jumping off the roof of the car—in a very “sinister” manner.
A scruffy dog barks at the out-of-focus dogcatcher, who brandishes a catcher pole. A struggle ensues. The dog is locked away in the truck, while the tiny face of a puppy watches from the trash pile as his parent is taken away.
After a montage of walking, Benji the dog arrives in New Orleans, as one does. He befriends a young boy named Carter (Gabriel Bateman) who is bullied at school (of course). Carter leads Benji home where he and his sister Frankie (Darby Camp) fall in love with our intrepid protagonist. They try in vain to hide him from their overworked mother Whitney (Kiele Sanchez). Because this is a movie, and it has to have some conflict, their mother forces the children to get rid of the dog. In a cliché to end all clichés, Carter takes Benji into the pouring rain and tells him to “just go.”
Luckily for Carter and Frankie, Benji decides to stick around. In a contrived and unbelievable turn of events, the two children are kidnapped. Benji follows them and manages to outmaneuver and trick another “evil” dog and both of these adult men. Benji is preternaturally intelligent, but the movie plays this off as Benji being “a good boy.”
Nothing could possibly be spoiled in a movie like this, so obviously Benji eventually saves the day and the children. Everyone becomes friends, the two bad guys are locked up, and all’s well that ends well. Things get a little dicey when Benji takes a pretty bad hit, but the power of love from Carter and Frankie brings him back to life, good as new.
The worst part about Benji is that it’s just generic. If you’ve seen a kids movie about animals, you’ve seen this one. Don’t waste your time with another.
Featured Image by Netflix