MUMTAJ BEGUM sniffs out the more illustrious dog stars who have made it to the silver screen.
MOVIES have gone to the dogs. Really. Most recently there was the romantic comedy starring Diane Lane and John Cusack titled Must Love Dogs. Although the huge black canine sitting between the actors on the movie poster had very little to do with the plot, the Labrador was cute enough to distract viewers from noticing how insipid the film was. Over the years, animals have been used as a means to add poignancy, or raise the “cute” factor, or just help move the story along. And more often than not, that animal is man’s best friend. Why dogs? Well, they are cuddly and cute.
On a more practical note, dogs are not crucial to a story unlike babies and children where there must be an extra layer to the plot to explain their presence. Secondly, they are obedient animals that can be trained to do whatever a director requires of them. None of the “diva” attitudes that one would expect from say, a cat, known to have a mind of its own. You may also find cows in movies – standing in the way of moving cars and twisters or caught in a flood – but we digress.
Romantic comedies are a popular genre for doggie appearances. In two of Jennifer Lopez’s films – Maid in Manhattan and Monster-in-Law – her character takes a couple of dogs for a walk only to meet the man of her dreams. Maybe someone should warn the dogs that her movies kind of stink.
Britain’s child actor Jonathan Mason with Lassie in the film Lassie.Want to know The Truth About Cats and Dogs? We ended up learning more about humans watching the film starring Janeane Garofalo, Uma Thurman and Ben Chaplin. Trust the Farrelly Brothers to “torture” a dog for laughs – but hey, it worked and the only thing funnier than that dog in a full body cast in that movie was Cameron Diaz’s fringe. In Edward Scissorhands, Johnny Depp’s character has a knack for shearing locks off the French poodles in the neighbourhood.
Dogs also sometimes are used to make monkeys out of their human co-stars. In Crimson Tide Captain Frank Ramsey (Gene Hackman) had his Jack Russell terrier on board a submarine and it did its business wherever it liked which just irritated the heck out of Lt Commander Ron Hunter (Denzel Washington). And thus the power struggle between the two hot heads must have begun.
Both Agents Kay and Jay had to kiss Frank the Pug’s furry little butt before learning the truth about the importance of a little pendant worn by a cat in Men in Black. The smart-mouth pug helped the agents again when they had to clear a new kind scum from planet Earth in the sequel. This time round, Frank even delivered a rendition of I Will Survive.
If it is strange you are looking for, then get Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks! in which there’s a head swapping Chihuahua. Maybe the dog walker with the long-dead bulldog is a bit hard to swallow – but this is down south we are talking about in The Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
Dogs are also excellent animals to use when it comes to scaring an audience. For instance, in The Hulk, a couple of vicious dogs kept by Dr David Banner are injected with some virus and wham! the dogs are now very angry dogs. Bruce Banner (Eric Bana) turns into a green angry man and they go at it like a bunch of mindless brutes.
Frank the Pug in Men in Black II.John Carpenter twisted a beautiful husky into a demented creature when a shape-shifting alien took its form in The Thing. Apparently, the Norwegian dog named Jed in the film was half wolf and half husky breed and an excellent animal actor that never looked at the camera or the crew. And just for your info, the yucky tentacles seen in the dog cage are actually whips manoeuvred by a technician.
Here’s some advice. If you ever see a black dog standing guard near a boy/man named Damien just stay clear of both of them. Or you will end up dying a horrible and untimely death as did all the other victims in The Omen movies. While Saint Bernard dogs are known for saving people, Cujo is a giant that kills and kills and kills. However in Cujo, based on a book by Stephen King, the canine’s victims are not very nice people to begin with.
With Jim Carrey acting very, very silly in movies like Ace Ventura and The Mask, we turn to the animals for the voice of sanity. Another movie featuring very “human” dogs is Babe. In it a pretty Border Collie adopts Babe the pig and teaches it to herd the sheep.
Dogs have their days too. Many have been leads in their own films – Beethoven, Beethoven’s 2nd, 101 Dalmatians, 102 Dalmatians, Air Bud, The Amazing Dobermans, Benji, Turner and Hooch, Snow Dogs and Cats and Dogs to name a few. Last year too, we also got to see a touching tale about a seeing eye Labrador in the Japanese film Quill. An upcoming film about dogs is Eight Below starring Paul Walker based on a National Geographic article. Eight Below is the story of two Antarctic explorers forced to leave their team of sled dogs behind as they fend for their survival in the brutal cold.
Some may remember the heart-warming tale of a yellow dog in the film Old Yeller.
This fictional mixed-breed dog was first introduced in a book written by Frederick Benjamin Gipson. A year after the book came out, Disney made a film based on the book which quickly became a classic