Pros: Will entertain kids
Cons: Silly looking CGI, flawed script
I love dogs. I love movies. Thus it’s pretty clear that if there’s a movie about a dog, I’m going to watch it. No matter if it’s absurdly silly, juvenile, and loaded with fake-looking CGI that doesn’t fool a five-year-old.
And that’s how I came to watch Karate Dog, starring Simon Rex, Jon Voight, Jaime Pressly, Pat Morita, and Chevy Chase (as the voice of Cho Cho the dog).
Pat Morita is always a pleasure to watch. Sadly, in this movie he’s only in the first scene. That’s because he’s shown stealing a canister containing some sort of mysterious potion, and shortly thereafter a group of ski-mask-clad thugs kill him to retrieve the stolen item.
The only eye-witness to the attack – Cho Cho the dog.
Now let me explain about Cho Cho. He speaks English. Quite eloquently. He’s also a master karate expert. But he doesn’t show off these talents to too many people – Basically, he only shares with people he can trust. He knows what would happen if his “unique abilities” were in the hands of the wrong people – people who would subject him to all manner of torture to obtain his secrets. Cho Cho is furious at the thugs who took his friend, his teacher, his master from him. So he insinuates himself into the police investigation by insinuating himself into the life of the nerdy detective Peter (Rex).
Together, detective and special-dog will crack the case wide open.
Of course, along the way there will be all kinds of shenanigans. And goofy-looking special effects. This isn’t an animated movie. Cho Cho is played by a very real Briard. Just as an aside, if you’re not familiar with this breed, I encourage you to check it out. This is a fairly large French herding dog. They are beautiful, intelligent, easy to train as long as socialized early, and have a luxurious long coat (although Cho Cho’s coat was kept very short, and looked like it was amazingly soft).
But back to the movie – in Cho Cho’s own right, he does all kinds of nifty doggy tricks. But he can also walk around perfectly straight on hind legs, brush his own teeth (with Peter’s toothbrush, of course), use a human’s toilet, play musical instruments, and, of course, put forth karate moves that would rival Seagal or Van Damme. That’s where the CGI comes in, and the effect is extremely silly-looking. Little kids will crack up, but adults will just shake their heads at the antics. Basically, this is a kid’s movie – and it’s helpful if you know that, going in. It’s best not to examine anything (not the script, not the visuals) through an adult’s eyes.
As far as the story goes, it’s quite predictable. There are good guys and bad guys. And a scandal involving dog-racing. Kids 8 and up should understand the story. There’s nothing terribly scary, although there are two moments that involve injured dogs that kids could find upsetting.
As a kid’s movie, Karate Dog works pretty well. It’s definitely a movie that kids who love dogs will want to watch over and over again, much to their parents’ dismay. As for adults, dog-lovers might get a kick or two out of it. There are definitely a few laughs along the way. But that’s about it. Most adults can easily skip it.