- BOTTOM LINE
- A Simple yet Outdated Film About the Unflinching Love of a Canine
What is the Story about?
An orphaned puppy meets a surprise caretaker in the form of an early teenager Carter Hughes. The latter has a soft spot for the puppy and also feeds him as he returns from school along with his sister Frankie. The puppy is desperate to win their company and feels loved amid the siblings, despite an unwelcoming atmosphere for a pet at home. The siblings name their puppy Benji and make sure nothing deters its spirit. However, there’s bad news as Carter’s mom disapproves of Benji’s presence at home. The siblings are distraught to leave Benji astray all over again. Carter and Frankie end up being kidnapped by a robber group sooner. How far will Benji go to prove his loyalty to the Hughes’ siblings and rescue them?
Given Benji’s wafer-thin storyline, the narrative is more or less dependent on the performances by the lead cast to sustain a viewer’s interest and that, they deliver with credibility. The puppy playing Benji is clearly the film’s lead protagonist and the canine strikes a chord whenever it appears on the screen. The director and the pet-owners do an assured job in giving the puppy a likeable screen presence, with all its tenderness, vulnerabilities. The kids, Gabriel Bateman, and Darby Camp, make for lively pet owners, playing siblings who sense a void in their life being raised by a single parent. Kiele Sanchez, essaying the role of their authoritative mother, gives authenticity to her part.
Direction By Brandon Camp?
Benji is that rare instance where you find a filmmaker who reboots a classic helmed by his own father. However, Benji doesn’t exactly seem a job done well. Director Brandon Camp, in his remake of 1974 original, may have succeeded in making the story relevant for the times but the story is rather simplistic and tender to evoke any surprise or tug at your heartstrings. The narrative is significantly flat and too leisurely to spring a surprise.
In the 88 minute film, Brandon Camp makes sure the audiences empathise with the incompleteness experienced by children raised by a single parent. Brandon, however, misses the mark with respect to the character arc of the pet, which certainly appears very well trained to pass off as an orphaned one.
The lead characters are nothing but cliches too. In a feel-good film such as this, it’s tough to expect a great conflict point and with little doubt, the predictability is the sore thumb of the narrative. The director, who stays very loyal to the 1974 original, probably needed more juice in the writing to keep a spectator glued to the screens for a 2019 audience. Everything about the film is nice, warm and high on aesthetic sense, and that’s the problem precisely; Benji is too easy-on-the-eye, taking the expected route and quite content in not aiming for much.
Will Rothhaar and Angus Sampson, playing the robbers who kidnap the children, are the only baddies in the entire film; who do not appear exactly invincible. Gralen Bryant Banks, as a soft-natured owner of vintage watch store and Jerod Haynes in the shoes a cop, have hardly any screen space nor great writing to assist them.
Music and other departments?
The composer Kostas Christides doles out a music score that’s in sync with the warm-fuzzy nature of Benji. The song ‘Almost Home’ is an instant earworm, while the rebooted number from the original, I Feel Love, stays with you much beyond the viewing. Thomas Scott Stanton, the cinematographer lends an identity to both the animate and inanimate objects in Benji and presents a viewer with a pleasant visual experience.
Strong performances by the lead cast
Lively music score
Nothing new in comparison to the original
Will you recommend it?
Benji Review by Srivathsan Nadadhur