Benji: Off the Leash

MPAA Rating: PG

Entertainment: +3 1/2

Content: +4

Joe Camp, creator of the original Benji films back in the 80s, brings back the lovable dog for another round of great family entertainment. Colby Hatchet (Nick Whitaker) lives with his mom and dad out in the country where Mr. Hatchet (Chris Hendrick) runs a puppy mill. He acquires purebreds, over breeds them and sells the puppies. Colbys efforts to protect a puppy and its sick mom from his father just make Hatchet angrier and meaner. The bumbling, comical animal-control officers (Duane Stephens and Randall Newsome) attempt to corral stray Lizard Tongue, who discovers Colbys wandering puppy. The lovable mutts lead the animal-control officers on a merry chase through town, fields, rivers, and eventually to an ailing dog. Benjis almost human facial expressions show fear, compassion, humor and love. Benji: Off the Leash, one of this years more entertaining, refreshing movies, may upset young children during some harrowing moments before good wins over evil.

Especially disturbing is the cruelty of Colbys father toward his wife and child that spills over onto the dogs caged in filthy pens with little shade and water. Colby risks his fathers wrath by removing a mother and her pups and putting them in an abandoned house where he takes care of them. But the boys efforts collapse when his father finds them. Except for Hatchet, all of the townspeople show support and concern for the animals. Dog catchers, often portrayed as heartless, actually become heroes in a bumbling sort of way. Some slapstick violence includes the animal-control guys falling into a muddy ditch, one getting shot with a tranquilizer gun, and a few accidental hits to the head. As the final credits roll, messages flash on screen that no humans or animals were harmed and all the animals came from shelters. The film stresses that if support of puppy mills stopped, there would be no need for animal shelters. With no sex, gratuitous violence or foul language, this movie earns 4 woofs of approval.

Preview Reviewer: Mary Draughon
Mulberry Square

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: Few (3) times moderate (butt 3)

Obscene Language: None

Profanity: None

Violence: Several times moderate (father verbally abusive toward family, implied physical abuse, man throws puppy across a room, man hit by tranquilizer gun, two men bang heads and fall into muddy ditch, painful falls)

Sex: None

Nudity: None

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: Once mild (father drinks beer)

Other: Theme that puppy mills are cruel, boy disobeys father to save puppies, mother refuses to leave abusive husband, man lies to authorities, dogs perform heroic deeds and display human qualities of love and friendship

Running Time: 90 minutes
Intended Audience: Age 6 and up

Click HERE for a PRINTER-FRIENDLY version of this review.