K-9

K-9. Universal Pictures 1989.

Before watching the movie:

The only thing I knew about this movie was the broad strokes “buddy cop with a dog” concept that made it forever paired with Turner and Hooch (along with both coming out the same year). I’m also vaguely aware of some sequels that appear to have come along very late, which makes me wonder if this left a better mark than the other movie, since I wasn’t aware of any sequels. However, it turns out that there was in fact a pilot for a Turner and Hooch series in the 90s and another remake series is currently in production because of course it is, so I guess it’s really just a matter of which one had more success getting greenlit.

I see some emphasis on the dog in this movie being really smart, which I thought for a moment meant there was going to be some experimental lab program he came from, but on closer inspection it looks like it’s just normal smart comedy dog kinds of canine intelligence. That’s less surprising but also not as interesting. It will probably be fun enough anyway. It did get three sequel/spinoff movies after all, so there must be something here they’re trying to replicate.

After watching the movie:

Michael Dooley, a loose canon San Diego Police detective, has been trying to bust local businessman Lyman as the leader of a drug ring for two years, but has never been able to pin anything on him. His long, unpredictable work hours have been straining his relationship with his girlfriend Tracy. When he narrowly avoids a hit attempt, his superior officer tries to get him to take a partner in order to get another car issued, but he refuses. Dooley does need a drug sniffing dog to track down a big shipment though, and he’s given Jerry Lee, a dog he’s warned is different, doesn’t get along with the other dogs. Dooley is at first exasperated by Jerry Lee, but when Lyman’s gang capture Tracy to get Dooley off the case, Jerry Lee is the only cop that will work with Dooley on his mission to get Tracy back and take down Lyman for good.

I was expecting a goofy, family-oriented animal movie because that’s what animal comedies are. But I was surprised to find that this is a PG-13 movie and it didn’t necessarily get that rating for the violence. It’s a bad cop movie that happens to have a dog. Dooley is a schlub, a sleaze, a jerkass, a guy who gets results and doesn’t care about the rules. I never found him likeable, and I don’t think he really learned anything beyond how to work with Jerry Lee as his partner.

Dooley also never has to actually work out his problems with his girlfriend because they’re all fixed by her being kidnapped and then rescued, which he gets to do along with making his big bust. Maybe if he’d had some point where he had to choose between the bust and Tracy, it would feel like he made a change. Maybe if he wasn’t already constantly on thin ice with the police department, him going against orders to go save Tracy and make the bust would feel like he’s prioritizing her over his career for once. But his goals are all aligned, he just has to make it happen. For that to happen before he makes any hard choices doesn’t feel satisfying.

I don’t really know how this got to be that popular. It doesn’t say anything, the alleged comedy has aged badly, it drags, the main character is a dick at work and a manchild at home and he gets to continue to be both, and the dog stuff isn’t even all that endearing. How was this successful enough to endure? It’s a mess that doesn’t fit easily marketable categories, and it felt like a waste of time. Expectations let me down and I’d rather stick to Turner and Hooch.

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