Family | 16 March 2018 (USA)
Two school kids strike up a friendship with an orphaned puppy named Benji. When danger befalls them and they end up kidnapped by robbers who are in over their heads, Benji and his scruffy sidekick come to the rescue.
I only found out that there was a 2018 version of this movie when I looked up the 1974 version of the story on Netflix. This new version is a Netflix production, and you can’t help avoid the tendency to compare it to the original version so it’s very hard to let it stand on its own. Compared to the 1974 movie, this “Benji” is a much darker movie from the beginning. Where the ’74 version opened with the wonderful theme song “I Feel Love” – sung by Charlie Rich – this one opens with a menacing animal control truck rounding up strays to take them to the pound. Where the ’74 version spent a lot of time letting us follow Benji, learning his daily routine and even getting a sense of fun as we learned about all the various relationships that Benji had developed with various people, this one seems rushed – giving us very little about Benji’s life, but pushing us very quickly into the kidnapping narrative.
Yes. That part’s the same . Benji gets befriended by a young brother and sister, whose parent (a single mother this time rather than a single father) refuses to let them keep him. The kids get kidnapped and it’s up to Benji to convince mom to follow him so that he can make sure they get home safe.
I watched the ’74 version with my daughter (who’s 13) a few days ago. Today, the day of its release on Netflix, we watched this one. We both agreed that this movie lacks the fun of the original; the charm. Her assessment was that this Benji (the dog, not the movie) didn’t have as much “personality” as the old Benji. That’s not a bad way of summing it up. He’s certainly cute – and the ending is classic “tug at your heartstrings” stuff that only a cute dog can bring out in you. And I would say that the human performances are better in this one than in the ’74 movie. But I’m still not convinced that remaking it was a good idea on Netflix’s part. And, to be honest, one of the best things about the ’74 movie was “I Feel Love.” Here, we get a truncated version of that song at the very end before they cut it off and return to some song whose words and title I can’t even remember that was written for this, I guess. That was one of the biggest disappointments of all.
Director: Brandon Camp
Writers: Brandon Camp, Joe Camp (based on the work of)
Stars: Gabriel Bateman, Darby Camp, Jerod Haynes
Release Date: 16 March 2018 (USA)
Filming Locations: New Orleans, Louisiana, USA