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Benji - Off the Leash
Benji - Off the Leash
Actors: Nick Whitaker, Chris Kendrick, Nate Bynum, Randall Newsome, Duane Stephens
Director: Joe Camp
Genres: Drama, Kids & Family
PG     2004     1hr 37min

MR HATCHETT IS FURIOUS WHEN HIS BEST BREEDER GETS FREE & MATES WITH A MONGREL, BUT HIS SON COLBY BEFRIENDS THE CUTEST OF THE MIXED-BREED PUPS. TO SAVE A FELLOW LONER, COLBY HIDES THE PUPPY IN HIS HOMEMADE FORT, WHERE BENJI...  more »
     
     

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Movie Details

Actors: Nick Whitaker, Chris Kendrick, Nate Bynum, Randall Newsome, Duane Stephens
Director: Joe Camp
Creators: Joe Camp, Jack Lewis, Jim Ritchie, Joe Camp III, Margaret Loesch, Phoebe Lewis
Genres: Drama, Kids & Family
Sub-Genres: Drama, Family Films
Studio: Good Times Video
Format: DVD - Color - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 12/28/2004
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 1hr 37min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 17
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

I love this film.
Eat-5 | LA | 08/18/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Benji Off the Leash! is no one-trick-pony. The film should win audiences of all ages and defrost even the most hardened canine-phobe. Both the movie and the mutt are that good.

Movies targeted for family trade often seem designed by committees hoping to lure all demographics. Happily, Benji Off the Leash! attains purity in every sense of the word; unlike many films of any genre, it reflects a unified vision. Benji producer/director/screenwriter Joe Camp has not stooped to conquer.

In direction, story construction, camerawork and performances both human and canine, Benji Off the Leash! is the best of the Benji canon. Its two-legged hero is Colby, a stalwart youngster who loves dogs. Its two-legged villain is Colby's harsh father, whose appropriate last name is Hatchett. He runs an illegal dog mill and mistreats all beings, both two-legged and four-legged.

Colby and Benji have parallel plights, dealing with the rescue of loved ones and strong maternal bonds.

Benji Off the Leash! has serious undercurrents, but it never turns grim. The film's canine comic foil is a character named Lizard Tongue, whom Benji befriends and then probably wonders if making friends with the rascally Lizard Tongue was a wise move. Two goofy dogcatchers and one eccentric recluse provide the human comedy.

As before, Mr. Camp films the canine scenes from the dogs' perspectives, and the desire to reach out and touch is irresistible. Benji interacts gamely with Lizard Tongue, a chatty parrot named Merlin and even a cow. Don Reddy's cinematography exquisitely captures each moment.

With eyes born for movie camera close-ups, Benji is a female mixed-breed terrier, three and one-half years of age. She is a wonder-dog, but she doesn't hog the show. As played by Shaggy, a dog from the south side of Chicago, Lizard Tongue is also one formidable scene-stealer.

Two-legged stars also fare well. Nick Whitaker has the essential soulfulness for Colby, while Duane Stephens has some hilarious bits as the goofier of the two dogcatchers. Mr. Stephens also sings a lilting "It Had To Be You" over the closing credits. Neal Barth relishes each moment as town eccentric Zacharia Finch, fond of improvising quotes from phony sources.

Calling a movie "the best of its kind" often has a condescending tone. In the case of Benji Off the Leash!, no condescension is warranted. This Benji's a beaut, for all ages. Woof.

Benji Off the Leash!
"
ONE OF THE BEST FAMILY FILMS OF THE DECADE!!!
Christopher Largen | Denton, TX USA | 02/12/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Joe Camp's original Benji film blazed a trail and provided inspiration for independent filmmakers across the world. In Benji: Off the Leash, Mr. Camp continues to break new ground by examining issues that will inevitably provoke meaningful conversation between parents and their children, a feat rarely accomplished in modern family entertainment. I was not surprised to learn that after all these years, Camp remains faithful to solid principles of fine storytelling. While viewing Off the Leash, I got a sense of Camp's deep love for independent film and his intuitive respect for the audience.

Many modern flicks for kids consist of spiritually empty images of mindless destruction, delivered at a brutally hyperactive pace, but Off the Leash is a notable exception. Parents who view this film with their children will be amazed to discover their kids, who were nursed on modern frenetic film fare, will not grow tired of the lingering camera shots contained throughout Off the Leash, as these scenes are designed to allow kids (and adult children) to use their imaginations and emotionally connect with the characters. Imagine that!

Joe Camp has always held his films to a higher standard, and Benji: Off the Leash is no exception. This film explores a somewhat darker theme than the original Benji films, as the child protagonist faces the enemy within his own family (as opposed to the evil forces operating outside the family in the first films). Off the Leash inspires children to think about values, and it doesn't proselytize or adopt a condescending attitude in order to do so.

Off the Leash is blessed by a wonderful soundtrack, including a rendition of the big-band standard "It Had to Be You". For reasons more nostalgic than critical, I missed hearing the soulful Charlie Rich soundtrack from the original Benji movies, but Joe Camp managed to work brief cuts from the original score into Off the Leash, complete with the often-parodied WAKKA-WAKKA guitar sound that defined the seventies.

Off the Leash has something for everyone. Film aficionados will appreciate the meticulous attention to detail in the lighting of the dogs' eyes, as well as Camp's juxtaposition of shots for maximum emotive effect. Writers and readers will notice fundamental principles of fine storytelling, and the way Camp manages to elicit strong, organic emotion without losing his grasp on realism. Fans of classic physical comedy will enjoy the fumbling dogcatcher sequences. Dog lovers will marvel at animal stunts that seem natural and effortless. Children and their parents will laugh and cry - but most importantly, they will talk.

Camp simply has too much respect for children to gloss over the often harsh realities of being a kid in the modern world. In addition to telling a captivating, amusing and suspenseful story, Off the Leash wrestles with tough issues like child abuse and domestic violence in a realistic but sensitive and insightful manner. The film will undoubtedly elicit feelings of courage, hope and self-worth in the hearts of abused and neglected children. The Benji films nurtured my spirit throughout many years of child abuse, and I would highly recommend Off the Leash to any adult survivor.

A word of caution: Amidst dozens upon dozens of glowing reviews, a few critics have leveled unfair and even malicious criticisms against Off the Leash, belying their misunderstanding of the important issues the film addresses. Parents who wish to subject their children to mind-numbing entertainment masquerading as family fare while pandering to the lowest common denominator should avoid Off the Leash, along with all the other Benji movies. On the other hand, parents who want their children to grow up armed with inner knowledge essential to protect themselves in a world that is often hostile and predatory will be glad they viewed this valuable and wholesome film with their kids.

Finally, a personal message to Mr. Camp... You owe me for a box of Kleenex, you tearjerker!



"
Don't Wait for Rental! See This Movie Now!
W. Burke | Fort Wayne, Indiana United States | 08/23/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I have been a big fan of Benji since I was in grade school. I didn't get to see the original movie or "For the Love of Benji" until I was older, but I was able to buy and read the book versions of those stories (which included a few photos from the films). I fell hopelessly in love with the brown-eyed, scraggily-eared dog in those stories. Years later, I was cuddling up and watching "Benji" videos with my very own, much-loved pooch who was a huge Benji fan herself. I swear! She watched and ejoyed every tape I showed her. It was actually quite amazing how spellbound she was by them.

Admittedly, "Benji" movies have always tended to be a little cheesy, but what has always mattered most is that at their heart are stories that simply shine with warmth and love. This new movie is no different in that respect. It does have some very serious issues that it addresses, but it does so with gentle grace. This is a film that -- God forbid -- inspires families to actually talk afterwards. Never fear, though. There is plenty of humor to lighten the mood, as well -- more than enough to keep the little ones laughing all the way home. And I dare even the most jaded adult to not be moved by the storyline involving "Lizard Tongue" and the eccentric old man. Anyone who has truly loved a dog will be unable to watch those scenes with dry eyes.

All in all, this is an important movie for animal lovers to see, and a great, all-around family film. I give this new "Benji" a big thumbs up. She may not look exactly like the original star, but she has what it takes to warm audiences hearts many times over and then some. In addition, her "acting" and the quality of her training are every bit as amazing. She needs your help, though! Don't pass this one up until it comes to rental. America is more in need of good ol' Benji these days than ever before. Show your support and see this one now! Tails will be wagged in your honor if you do."
Great family film
CHARLIE'S ANGEL | Huntington, WV | 10/24/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I have loved Benji since I was a kid and when I heard there was going to be a new Benji movie I was estatic. My husband and I went to see this famous pooch in his first movie since the '80s.
Although it was a very moving story and I did cry during the end,I didn't feel like this movie was as good as all the other Benji movies. It seemed like it took a very long time to tell the story and also didn't seem very planned out. Like other Benji movies had a plot(ie. Benji's first movie he stopped kidnappers and in For the Love of Benji he is trying to escape some spies that want him for an experiment, Benji the hunted he's trying to help some abandoned cougar cubs.) So you see my point. Even though this movie starts out with them on the search for a new Benji and our pooch who is named Benji in the end is trying to save his mom from a puppy mill they seem to get a little off the plot here and there during the movie. Children will love this adorable mutt and true Benji fans will as well. Most adults though may be bored. Other than the lenghty script and off topic scenes I loved it, would see it again, and plan to purchase the DVD on December 28th. And for those wondering there is a Benji Christmas movie to be released in theaters December 2005."