Film Review | Benji (2018)

By Daniel Hart
Published: March 16, 2018 (Last updated: December 16, 2023)
Benji - 2018 - Netflix - Review

Netflix Original Benji, a remake of the 1974 release, follows Benji on a similar adventure as he delves into the city to try and save two children who have been kidnapped. Directed by Brandon Camp, Benji (2008), was released on Netflix on March 16, 2018.

Regardless of what I write here, if you are a self-proclaimed dog lover, you will love Benji. The Netflix Original film does not take long to provide a scene that pulls at those heart strings. In fact, it happens in the first five minutes, when the dog Benji, seemingly in a dog compound, is separated from his dog friends. The stray mutt does a cute run after the truck and, you guessed it, the soothing sad music ensues. This is your typical affectionate pet movie. The kind you watch when you are sick off work, wrapped up in your blankets sipping soup. Movies like Benji are not designed to be criticised but more to fill those DVD cabinets and to be replayed over and over again by your children.

If you are unfamiliar with the original plot, then the good thing is that the dog cannot talk. This irritating method has only worked in a select few films but recently on our movie podcast, we discussed the trailer for the upcoming film Show Dogs, and the voice acting was completely out of synchronization. Benji uses the method of using the right shots of the trained dog to convey emotion and progress the story. Like anything that sits in this genre, what is most impressive is how well trained these dogs are, but you can only imagine how many scenes had to be frustratingly reshot.

With the plot comes more heartstrings pulled. Young siblings Carter and Frankie become besotted by Benji who has followed them back to their home. Their worried mother disapproves, so an upset Frankie has to quickly let him go. I did question why he did not take him to a dog home, because Benji was left on the streets and subjected to sleeping and eating amongst the smelly garbage. Anyway, the following day the children get kidnapped by jewelry shop burglars, who are kind of reminiscent of Home Alone; dumb and goofy.

Of course, this is where Benji becomes the ultimate heroic dog on the street, with incredible intuition and the ability to do absolutely anything. Benji is completely far-fetched but you have to take it with a pinch of salt because, well, it is a film about a dog. The film is not designed to be realistic or memorable, it is to show how cute and awesome a dog can be in a storyline of nonsense humans who cannot fathom anything out. From a critical standpoint, Benji is as predictable and annoying as you would expect it to be. The cynical adults do not believe that the dog is onto something, despite the fact that Benji can unlock doors with his teeth and follow the mystery trails. The cynicism and setbacks are constructed to delay the inevitable ending of the hero dog saving the day with the heartwarming rejoices.

You will not remember Benji, nor will you care once the credits roll. It is no Marley and Me or Homeward Bound but no one cares. For a movie about a stray dog saving innocent children, I enjoyed it.

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