Benji Off The Leash!

  • 2004
  • 1 HR 37 MIN
  • PG
  • Adventure, Children's

Aimed squarely at young animal lovers, this family film features a frisky new Benji and a gentle message about what we owe animals and what they give us in return. The dogs are cute, the scary parts are appropriately subdued and everything works out for the best: Just assure tenderhearted youngsters that the poor rejected puppy will grow up to be clever...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
Rating:

Aimed squarely at young animal lovers, this family film features a frisky new Benji and a gentle message about what we owe animals and what they give us in return. The dogs are cute, the scary parts are appropriately subdued and everything works out for the best: Just assure tenderhearted youngsters that the poor rejected puppy will grow up to be clever Benji, who will rescue his mother, Lucy, from the puppy mill and find his homeless new friend a berth with a kindly old eccentric. It begins with a series of local radio newscasters reporting that the producer of the popular Benji movies is looking for a new dog with the right blend of smarts and personality. But young Colby Hatchett (the perpetually worried-looking Nick Whitaker) has too many problems to think about dog-star searches. His bullying father (Chris Kendrick) runs a puppy mill in his backyard, much to animal-loving Colby's dismay, and Colby's mom is too downtrodden to object. When Lucy's new litter includes an unsightly tan puppy, Hatchett rejects the useless mongrel, which Colby hides in his clubhouse in the woods. Lonely Colby wants to bring the little charmer home, but he's so scared of getting attached to the tiny fugitive that he doesn't even give him a name — he just calls him "puppy." Meanwhile, another dog that looks like a scruffy Brillo pad with legs is dumped from a car onto a country road. Dogcatchers Sheldon and Livingston (Duane Stephens, Randall Newsome) vow to catch the stray, but while he's far from the brightest pup in the pack, he's bright enough to elude them repeatedly. What Livingston and Sheldon really want, though, is to bust Mr. Hatchett for his inhumane dog-breeding business... all they need is evidence. And Benji's plan to spring Lucy, now suffering the effects of bearing too many litters, could provide just the proof they need. Light-years removed from most 21st-century children's films, this gentle animal adventure reflects contemporary mores — the dogcatchers are still the comic relief, but they aren't the bad guys anymore; they're animal control officers who care about the welfare of our furry friends — while holding out against the creeping vulgarity that's crept into most kid's pictures. It's sweet-natured, soothing and there's a behind-the-scenes/blooper reel at the end that will reassure anyone worried about the animals' treatment during filming.

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