BENJI: THE ORIGINAL CLASSIC REVIEWED
“Benji” is finally in its original aspect ratio on home video. Let’s take a moment and praise Mill Creek for making that happen. Now, let’s talk about this movie. Growing up, there were only two Benji movies readily available to me. Those were “Benji the Hunted”, which I saw in theaters. The other was “Oh Heavenly Dog” which aired on a constant repeat during the day on HBO. The late 1980s were a fascinating time to be a kid.
Naturally, the Disney distributed “Benji the Hunted” was what I saw first. As an adult, I understand how impressive it was to release a movie that was 99% narrative driven animal action. Then, I could head home and watch “Oh Heavenly Dog” since it aired at least twice a week before DuckTales would air on WDRB. In that film, Chevy Chase is resurrected as Benji and he has to solve his murder. From there, the Fletch dog finds love and even swears. At the time, I was 6 or 7. So, I had to do a lot of leg work to reconcile what was going on.
A family friendly franchise about a cute dog could go from swearing sexed-up Chevy Chase narration to saving animals in the wilderness. Then, I saw the original movie on WBNA. These references won’t mean a thing to outside people, but I’m crafting a narrative here. When I saw the original film, it felt like an amateur production with community theater actors. I know that Aunt Bee was in it, but my elementary school brain was melting out of my ears.
These movies went from cute dog saving kidnapped kids to Chevy Chase potty-mouthed farce to cute dog fighting to survive in the wilderness? I would love to see the dartboard that made these creative choices. Between timing this release to the impending Netflix debut of the Blumhouse distributed Benji reboot, I didn’t know how I felt about the franchise. Then, I listened to the commentary on this disc.
Joe Camp is an older guy, but he’s an indie filmmaker at heart. Listening to his son guide him through craft talk and sharing stories about the production, I got it. These films were meant to challenge what could be done with animal actors. What had previously been the territory of Disney animation was going to be achieve in live-action. So, if there is any grand takeaway, it would be this. The Camp family made me finally understand Benji roughly 31 years later.
- Photo Gallery
- 1.78:1 1080p transfer
- LPCM 2.0