Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Karate Dog (2004)

Oh, Bob Clark, what happened to you? I may not have seen all your movies. In fact, I’ve only seen a few of your movies. However, I’ve seen your resume and reviews of your films to know that you have two sides, akin to Gollum. The first half of your career, from what I can tell, was awesome. Your credits included the 1974 Christmas horror film, Black Christmas, the 1982 comedy, Porky’s, which is one of the most notable and influential teenage sex comedies of the 1980’s, and, how I first knew you, A Christmas Story, that good ol’ Christmas classic you see on TBS for 24 hours that has proudly found a place on my top 10 favorite films. Around this time, the general public saw you as a versatile genius.

Apparently, you wanted to abandon that image of yourself, because a year after A Christmas Story was released, people began to see a different side of you until your untimely death in 2007. A side that left many people confused, baffled, and scratching their heads. A side of you that directed movies such as the 1984 Razzie-nominated film, Rhinestone, the little-seen 1990 film, Loose Cannons, which has gained minor notoriety for placing on Siskel & Ebert’s Worst of 1990 list, and, what many people considered to be the low point of your career, the Baby Geniuses movies.

One of your worst years, other than 2007, was 2004. Around this time, people considered you to be a man who was formerly brilliant, but then, sadly, lost his way. In other words, you never again needed to take a bath, because you were already washed-up. I guess this new image exasperated you, because your final curtain call was a one-two punch of Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2 (currently unseen by me) and The Karate Dog. While this film may not be one of Bob Clark’s low points, it is most definitely not one of his high points.

The movie begins when a Chinese man named Chin Li. I guess that’s an alleged joke or maybe it’s not, but I digress. He tries to obtain a biochemical formula, but he, unfortunately, gets murdered trying. Enter detective Peter Fowler, played by Simon Rex, who is trying to solve the case. Oh, and here’s his character arc. He’s the man who discovers something and tries to help, but nobody believes him and he’s ridiculed by the big man (a.k.a. his boss). However, he works hard and eventually, he is called a hero. How original.

Under circumstances I won’t explain, he eventually gets Chin Li’s dog Cho Cho and discovers that he is the only dog that can talk to humans. Cho Cho requests that he helps Peter out on this case and they eventually encounter the villain, Hamilton Cage, who is not only a dog racetrack owner, but is also planning to sell the biochemical formula, a.k.a. Lot 99, which, unknowingly, has some hazardous effects. However, there’s a flabby subplot involving Peter trying to win over co-worker Ashley (Jaime Pressly), which results in that classic Cyrano de Bergerac joke. Ha ha.

I don’t exactly know what Bob Clark was thinking, but he ended up making a low-rent version of Good Boy. And Good Boy is the low-rent version of Good Boy (even though, Good Boy is a good movie). However, I went into watching this expecting an atrociously inept miscalculation. However, it’s actually not that bad. It’s just middling.

I probably shouldn’t blame Bob Clark for everything about this movie, seeing how Steven Paul and Gregory Poppen wrote it. I, sometimes, appreciate when a movie has silly dog jokes (i.e. Marmaduke and a FEW, but not all, jokes from Cats & Dogs 2), but here the jokes just aren’t very funny, albeit they could be at least passable, if not funny, in another helmer’s hands. To be fair, while there are two urine jokes, these writers don’t delve into too much gross-out, bathroom humor. The humor is just, kinda, insipid and when it tries to be self-referential (for example, when dogs are playing poker at a party and Peter says, “I should’ve seen that coming!”), it comes across as cheesy, inane, and clumsy. There’s even a moment where the film even rips off Baby Geniuses. At about an hour and nine minutes into the movie, a bunch of dogs sing a song, similar to a bus scene in Baby Geniuses, if you closely pay attention.

To the credit of the film, though, there are about two amusing moments in the movie and the script doesn’t include a lot of “epic fail” moments, EXCEPT for an inappropriate joke involving a puppy, an unnecessary moment in the movie that’s supposed to be emotional, but it’s just clunky in the way it’s handled, and a WTF music sequence at the very end that makes the end scene in Furry Vengeance look like Hairspray.

It completely baffles me how Bob Clark can get big-name actors to be in his two-bit films. The role call here includes Chevy Chase as the voice of the dog, Pat Morita (Mr. Miyaki in the Karate Kid) as the deceased old man…

…and then there’s Jon Voight, who plays the villian. 

Why? I haven’t seen many of YOUR films either, but looking at your track record and the fact that you won a freaking Oscar, I suppose you are a competent actor. At this point in his life, I don’t know if he’s trying to intentionally tarnish his reputation or just prove that he’s out of his mind and hope for some psychiatric help, but based on this and Bratz, three years later, he is not on a winning streak, minus his cameo in Tropic Thunder. To be fair, maybe he did Bratz to show that a) he doesn’t need Bob Clark to ruin his career and b) to tribute Bob Clark, seeing how Bob Clark died the same year Bratz was released

He is, honestly, making Christopher Walken mentally sane by comparison. Also, I love the fact that whenever Jon Voight is in a bad movie, he allows himself to looks ridiculous. Hence his big nose in Bratz and his character in this movie, which looks like a cross between Kenny Rogers and Billy Ray Cyrus. However, I’m sure all three of my readers are wondering what I actually think of his performance, seeing how I am just talking about his looks and mental insanity.

Well, he does try, but he’s misguided and awkward. The performances, with the exception of Pat Morita (R.I.P.) are lackluster at best, grating at worst. Even the lady over a loudspeaker in the beginning is monotonous. Chevy Chase, while has a tolerable delivery as a voiceover guy, sounds embarrassed that’s he doing his role. The two performances that were grating, to me, were Simon Rex and Jaime Pressly. Simon Rex is very flat and monotonous. At times where he tries to show emotion, he can’t do it sincerely. Hell, he can’t show emotion, at all. Jaime Pressly, of course, has a nice smile and is very photogenic, but she’s pretty much on the same note as Simon Rex, but at least she shows emotion…when she smiles, but still. Just think of Jaime Pressly after she went to the Kelly Clarkson School of Acting and you’ll get the idea.

The film is, also, technically mediocre. The mouth moving effects on the dogs are actually passable. They could’ve been a lot cheaper looking, seeing the decrepitude of some of his films. Although, I think the people who did the mouth effects were ashamed because in the first five minutes of the movie, he talks, but we never see his mouth move. We don’t even see his face. While there are times where his mouth and voice aren’t in synch, it certainly isn’t the worst I’ve seen. 

Cho Cho, in general, is spotty (no pun intended). At one point he’ll look real, other times he’ll, transparently, be a puppet, and at other times, he is CGI, terribly and transparently so. Mental note to Bob Clark: CGI is NOT your strong point. The fight scenes are amateurishly done. You can tell that the actors are on harnesses. It looks as cheap as when the dog is fighting. That’s really saying something. At times, you can even tell that feet or fists haven’t even struck at certain actors.

The editing is weird and rubbery. There are times where the camera speeds up and even slows down for no reason. I don’t blame the cinematographer, though there is one spinning shot that was redundant. However, the editing is not just flawed visually, but also audibly. There are pointless, childish sound effects thrown in and the score, while at times decent, seems uncomfortably extemporaneous. There are times when the score is just there for a certain situation, even going as far as putting in the “wah-wah-wah” sound effect in one scene. It's so annoyingly pandering.

Now, here I have to do a little ranting on an issue in children’s entertainment that really irks me. Why in the world does children’s entertainment send out a false message to kids that dogcatchers are bad people? Ever since Lady and the Tramp had a dogcatcher character that was actually authentic and humane, children’s entertainment has produced dogcatcher characters that are heartless, cruel, and even inept people. They never have real feelings or reasons for what they do; they are just monsters. Why is that? It may seem like nit picking, but I have rarely seen a kid’s film or television show with a nice, competent, and reasonable dogcatcher. The way the majority of dogcatchers are portrayed in phony, immature, and it’d oughta stop.

Overall, this may not be Bob Clark’s worst film. Until I see his other movies that are allegedly bad, Baby Geniuses takes the prize for his worst film. However, out of all his films, this is most definitely not the one to see. If you want my opinion, I recommend A Christmas Story, as I mentioned earlier. It may be old-fashioned, but it is not only funny and keen, but it evokes a bittersweet sense of nostalgia. The Karate Dog evokes a sense of ennui.

RATING: Two stars out of four