The Political Compass of Dog Movies

After a brief respite, Alexander and I have returned to the much needed analysis of canine cinema. Accomplishing the creation of our own dog movie so soon had placed us on a narrow path and the break has shifted us away from intense dog murder.

When returning to the series, we questioned what had to be assessed and came to the obvious point. We had barely talked about existing dog movies, only in reference, and had to map out the political climate of the waters we’re braving.

“You wouldn’t get Marley biting Owen Wilson on his jeb-end.”

Devon: We haven’t talked existing dog movies so much yet. I’m just googling dog movies, we should tackle a few and see if there’s any sub-genres, areas, or patterns that have been well tread?

Alexander: Sure thing, that sounds good!

Devon: Beethoven is quite the classic. Sure got quite a few sequels.

Alexander: It did! Beethoven is one of those rare dog movies where the dog doesn’t say anything. Which very well could be he’s too scared to talk because Charles Grodin is constantly screaming at him.

Devon: It sings to Beethoven! Some humans can’t even do that.

Alexander: He was impressive, and he seemed to have a good understanding of how to thwart villains, too. Who, it must be pointed out, were Oliver Platt and Stanley Tucci.

Devon: A great comical pairing.

Alexander: It had me laughing in the aisles… of my home, because I didn’t see it in cinemas

Devon: I don’t know if I’ve ever seen it, which is a confession I shouldn’t be making in this series. I am acquainting myself to it; the trailer really makes a point of how important he is to canine cinema.

Alexander: Oh wow! So you don’t remember the small part that David Duchovny has?

Devon: Was he investigating the dog?

Alexander: He does, and he’s right to, because Beethoven is not of earthly origin.

Devon: Well, I suppose that’s better than him wanting to have sex with it.

Alexander: oh he does that to, that’s why Beethoven attacks him. Ends up dragging David Duchovny and Patricia Heaton along the street with his immense power.

Devon: So it really covers the gamut of his career.

Alexander: It really does! The film also gets quite dark; Beethoven is stolen and then faces being put down after a naughty bloke applies fake blood and says Beethoven bit him.

Devon: And it hits that ’80’s / ’90’s PG era, where they thought it was totally cool to give the baddies actual guns as a threat. They were going murder that dog, and maybe the family as witnesses.

Alexander: They were not messing around. To soften the murder aspects, one or both of them do get the classic comedy bite-on-the-bum by Beethoven. Whether or not they get rabies is unanswered.

Devon: It is a very inherently funny place to get bit in the bottom, even more so the genitalia.

Alexander: It’s a fine line though isn’t it? Bit on the crotch, generally? Fine. Bit directly on the tip of the penis? Too far.

Devon: “Aagh! This pooch got my bell!!” – The Tucci

Alexander: The director went on to make Jingle all the Way; in which a Reindeer makes dog noises, and is called a “good doggie” by Arnie. So this director had a thing for dogs.

Devon: You think he wanted to rehire Beethoven as a cameo? But he was too busy and they had to go with a reindeer.

Alexander: That must be it! He and the director ended on bad terms when the director used the slur, “mutt”, which Beethoven was not having. Oh shit! He also directed Snow Dogs!! This guy, he’s a dog fiend!

Devon: Like a doggie Woody Allen or Linklater¹; dogs keep working with him even after those incidents.

[I’d like to issue one correction here, when referring to asshole directors I intended to name David O’Russell for his repeated verbal abuse toward actors. That being said, Linklater did Boyhood so I’m certain he was an asshole for at least some of those twelve years.]

Alexander: He shouldn’t have the career he does but, damn, does he know how to direct dogs! Also directed Scooby Doo: The Mystery Begins.

Devon: Maybe he’s like Tarantino, “you see, I’m a furry, so I’m practically an honorary dog; that’s why it’s totally cool for me to use the m-word”.

Alexander: So terrifyingly apt, “I love dogs so much that it’s fine for me to say it!”

Devon: Huh, I tried to put an -er / -a distinction as a joke, but there’s not many ways you can say mutt.

Alexander: The word really is a hot button issue in the dog world. In Goodfellas, Joe Pesci says it a lot.

Devon: I didn’t know there even were any dogs in that film.

Alexander: There weren’t. He just loves the word!

Devon: So, we can say in the political spectrum, Beethoven is a very archetypal, safe template.

Alexander: It is very straight forward. Family get giant dog, giant dog is nearly dog-napped, giant dog restores order, and destroys Charles Grodin’s home.

Devon: It would be a very simple structure to recreate, which many dog movies do. We’ll find something that goes a little differently just after I share this far too brief plot…

 

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Alexander: That last line is impossible to comprehend.

Devon: It reads like we were suddenly brought in at the last minute to rewrite the climax. Even aside from the possibility of Beethoven handling firearms, or the sudden existence of spirits, why is he not officially declared a hero?

Alexander: Even if he did stop the spirits, he is promoting gun violence. Do his ends justify his means? Can they ever, when guns are such a damaging force?

Devon: In all the films where people have tried to use guns on ghosts… a dog succeeds.

Alexander: Maybe, a dog using a gun is so illogical that the spirits were just, “you know what? Fair enough, heck it! None of this makes any sense in the first place”.

Devon: What’s different than Beethoven then? Cats and Dogs takes a very alternate approach to family films about pets.

Alexander: Very weird and cartoon-y in comparison; maybe when CGI was at its worst, so it looks horrific. I remember actively hating it as a child.

Devon: It certainly is pushing the imagination to its natural limits. They gave the SNL writer’s room the pitch, ‘cats and dogs actually fight each other’, and then a bag of cocaine.

Alexander: Someone, after their first line, looked up, “well firstly, Jeff Goldblum would want to study them”.

Devon: “And secondly, Charlton Heston would be the top dog in charge”. Why not just make him an ape? The true prequel to The Planet of the Apes; they just took over what was left after the cat dog war took everyone else out.

Alexander: I would definitely buy that the events of this film directly resulted in the fall of civilization.

Devon: I was about to comment that this concept pushed to it’s illogical extreme was reminiscent of Boss Baby, until I noticed one of the main dogs is voiced by Alec Baldwin.

Alexander: He’s always playing dogs and babies because he is both a dog and a baby. I have to say though, Tobey Maguire as a plucky young Beagle? Perfect casting. He was spiders, he was dogs, the only thing that he wasn’t? Out of the lime lights! Everyone wanted a bit of Tobe.

Devon: Also part of the pussy posse, so as far I understand, he was also a cat at some point.

Alexander: And he had ‘frog like features’, according to James Franco! Yet he never played a frog, wasted opportunity. With Cats and Dogs, it came out when loads of badly CGI’d animal movies were around; like Stuart Little and Lake Placid.

Devon: Which also had Oliver Platt.

Alexander: He can’t keep away from animals, that dirty boy! I don’t remember Cats and Dogs that well, but it definitely falls at the weirder end of the dog spectrum.

Devon: I guess in the sense of dogs still doing crazy stunts, but not as secret as espionage, there’s the iconic Air Bud.

Alexander: A film which I have yet to see! Though I have seen Santa Buddies and Santa Buddies 2: The Santa Pups, but dogs playing basketball is a treat I’ve yet to reward myself with.

Devon: That does not entirely surprise me. That series is entirely based on him just individually taking over sports with each entry. But as the classic referee states, “there’s no rules that say dogs can’t compete”, which opens infinite opportunities.

Alexander: It’s going to get to the point where it’s so obscure, Air Buds: Jai Alai to Hell. Is there any CGI in Air Bud, or is it mostly stunt dogs who are forced into basketball jerseys?

Devon: There is actually very little CGI; a lot of it is actual dogs, they mainly just knock the ball out of kids hands up toward the hoop.

Alexander: I like the idea that there are no dog rules. It opens it up to a dog version of The Purge. I’m glad that Air Bud supports real dog athletes, I just hope none of them were on performance enhancing treats.

Devon: Air Bud: Paw De France!

Alexander: *to the tune on Girls On Film* Dogs on Bikes! Dogs on Bikes!

Devon: Damn that dog making us all believe a dog could get to the moon without doping.

Alexander: We were rooting for you!

Devon: Relating to some of our earlier made discussions, this really was a significant dog movie; it did try to show that dogs could be stars, similar to Beethoven, something we just don’t have these days.

Alexander: That’s very true! These films were almost entirely carried by the dogs, while the people in those movies are usually ‘oh, that guy’ actors who you recognise from old Friends episodes. The dogs are the talent and fair play to the movies for understanding that.

Devon: I’m looking at some of these modern films, Firehouse Dog, Vampire Dog, the center of attention! But who the heck are they? Probably more lazy Hollywood dog faces relying on CGI to carry them.

Alexander: They’re nobodies! The dog versions of David Arquette! Whereas Buddy was the Brad Pitt of dog cinema.

Devon: David Arquette was also in a dog movie… what the heck was that one again? Skip something?

Alexander: Oh right! I think it was My Dog Skip, the movie that exists solely on Channel 5 on Sundays when they have nothing else to show. “We can’t show dirty dancing again, can we?”

Devon: I think a guy in that gets bit on the bell so hard he’s speared through a window.

Alexander: I’m glad to hear it. The ’90’s really went for that crotch biting in a big way, I miss it, truly. You wouldn’t get Marley biting Owen Wilson on his jeb-end.

Devon: I was just about to say, you know what would lighten the doggie death in those films!?

Alexander: “Jen, honey, Marley’s not well, plus he munched my nuts earlier”.

Devon: “I’m afraid it’s serious; your dog’s stomach has like 18 ballsacks in it, and that’s 24 balls” Oh, I’m editing that math in the final version.

Alexander: It’s perfect either way.

Devon: Some of those balls were just destroyed in the bite.

Alexander: Going back to my dog Skip quickly, he was a Jack Russell, right? Those were big in the ’90’s! You had Eddie in Frasier, Milo in The Mask, they were hot flashy dogs.

Devon: God damn it. I feel I’ve done this already, but the Arquette dog film is See Spot Run. As soon as I saw Skip had favourable reviews, I thought that can’t be right.

Alexander: What the heck is My Dog Skip then? I didn’t just imagine that, did I?

Devon: It’s the one with Frankie Muniz.

Alexander: God, they just blur into one after a while, don’t they?

Devon: I don’t we ever once promoted ourselves as the experts.

Alexander: If we did, this has disproved our credentials.

Devon: Hmm, so we’ve got a political compass: the dead center is Beethoven, then there’s wild CGI dogs, then real dogs doing real people stuff, then dead dogs.

Alexander: That covers the bases quite nicely. Anything else is a weird mashup of two or more of these.

Devon: Turner and Hooch is dog doing people stuff and veers toward dead dog in terms of danger.

Alexander: The same for K-9; dog doing cop shit and hanging out with Jim Belushi, then I think he veers towards death.

Devon: When is Jim Belushi not veering towards death?

Alexander: Death is constantly flying at his windshield and he’s just swerving out the way into darkness. Summarizes all these films, quite frankly.

Devon: I feel we’re missing one point for this compass… let’s add dogs helping people; Eight Below, Snow Dogs, Firehouse Dog, etc.

Alexander: Of course! The hero dogs, who for some weird reason, put their own wonderful lives in danger to help people like Cuba Gooding Jr.

Devon: Or Paul Walker, who was getting that drift practice in for The Fast and The Furious.

Alexander: Imagine the dogs seeing the news about Paul Walker after they went to all that trouble of saving him, “well, that was a waste!”

Devon: “Thank god he wasn’t driving us that night!” Unless he was driving a sled that night, and the dogs saw a cat up that tree…

Alexander: Oh no… and then we veer into darker territory. Bad dog films; the Cujo’s of the world.

Devon: True, there have to be more than Cujo and White Dog, the first two that come to my mind.

Alexander: I genuinely can’t think of anymore; people don’t want to face that dogs can be evil. It’s a truth too painful.

Devon: These are three vastly different approaches:

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Alexander: That second one sounds WILD.

Devon: Is it really a dog movie if it’s a robot movie?

Alexander: It might make me sound like a purist, but if it’s a robot, it’s not a dog. It is offensive to sell itself as such.

Devon: So, if there’s anything we’ve got settled this time, it’s that it has to be an actual dog.

Alexander: That’s important! It has to be a dog. If it’s not a dog, it’s not a dog movie, and honestly, it can burn!

Devon: We did mention dog death, but only briefly, which is less than last time. We’ve covered some other aspects of dog movies.

Alexander: We’ve covered quite a lot, if we wanted to talk more about dog death, is that it’s own chat, do you think?

Devon: We’ve covered a lot of dog death with our seminal Bark!

Alexander: That’s true. Maybe the sun has set on the dog death path. Maybe a lighter path is ahead of us.

Devon: If we ever bother to watch and remember one of these kids films.

Alexander: That’d be a good idea, I could manage to scare up an Air Bud, or something, to watch!

Devon: If we’re ever going to find success in the dog movie business, we may have to cover those four quadrants.

Alexander: We have to unpack them, take a look at them and then, in the words of Sean and Hayes, speak on that. We’ve got a ways to go, but I’m enjoying the ride.

Devon: Speaking of ways to go, we have still not figured a way to end these yet, have we? If we did last time, we sure forgot.

Alexander: It’s really hard, right? I think it’d be okay to rearrange something, so it has a good sign-off line. When it comes to editing, you could write a summary at the end; a what we learned today kind of thing.

Devon: I leave editing to the very last minute. I never have the time for sign offs!

Alexander: Fair enough. It is difficult figuring out how to end the thing, once you’ve said everything, like UTU2TM where they’re, “uh…I think we’re done?”

Devon: This is, uh, good dog movies.

Alexander: Begs the question: when are we getting those heckin’ t-shirts!?

Devon: I’m sure Buddy’s got some jerseys left over, from one of the sports he played.

Alexander: It doesn’t even have to look like a sports jersey, just any t-shirt that he can find is fine! What would a dog even need with a t-shirt anyway?

Devon: Dumb, naked dogs, I don’t have that kind of hair to keep my chest warm.

Alexander: Maybe that’s a topic to cover at some point: the nudity of dogs in films, and the weird rules of dog clothes.

Devon: Let’s not get ahead of ourselves! SEE YOU NEXT TIME, SAME DOG BLOG, UH, SAME DOG, UHH, CHANNEL… Shit, that’ll do.

Alexander: It’s good enough!! Good night, and good RUFF!

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