Oh, The Humanity! The Karate Dog

Because sometimes we like terrible films, and have no shame in admitting so.

The Karate Dog

With a 2.9 imdb rating and some of the worst critical maulings I’ve ever witnessed, you would think that a) I wouldn’t bother watching Karate Dog in the first place, and b) Even if I did there was no way I’d enjoy it. And that should have been the case, it really should, for this is by no means a great movie, but it is a surprisingly endearing one.

First off I should confess that I’ve a real weakness for anything which involves live action talking animals. The concept’s essentially such a naff one and yet it nearly always makes me smile, which is why I’m one of the seven people over the age of twelve who enjoyed Show Dogs. Indeed a review of it for this feature will be coming soon, but this is even worse than that film, yet for some bizarre unknown reason despite such a thing I liked it even more. The poster advertises the fact that this features the voice of Chevy Chase, and sometimes it sounds like he recorded his dialogue either whilst in the bath or over the phone from a faraway country. It’s not a bad performance though, Chase gives it his all, presumably as work had dried up for him around this time and he was desperate for the pay cheque and possible employment in any future sequels. The final film of director Bob Clark, best known for the bleakly tacky Porky’s and Porky’s 2, many have remarked that it was a tragedy for him to go out with such a poorly received flick but I’d argue it’s far better than either of those films.

Possibly one of the reasons it received so many bad reviews is that those expecting lots of fantastical fighting with our canine friend will be sorely disappointed, as I was initially, because after a brief karate scene at the beginning it’s not until an hour and eleven minutes in that the next occurs, which lasts less than five minutes and that’s the last one we get too. But surprisingly this doesn’t really matter, because this idiotically silly movie has a lot else going on, and it’s more of a cop dog buddy movie akin to Turner and Hooch and K-9 than anything else. Except here the dog makes terrible puns, and goes on weird rants about cats, including the following which made me smile: “Oh oh, oh no, feline fury coming on…Cats are behind the plagues of the middle ages, you know that don’t you? And I got my suspicions about World War 2, and, and, and you think Oswald acted alone, huh?”

Plot wise this revolves around Pat Morita (in a cameo which sadly turned out to be his last film) stealing a mysterious glowing green liquid, only for a gang of ninjas to attempt to relieve him of it. His dog Cho Cho tries to save him but Pat’s mortally wounded, and even Cho Cho calling 911 fails to save him. Soon the cops are investigating, and Cho Cho teams up with Detective Fowler (the aptly named Simon Rex, best known for such classic films as Scary Movie 3, 4 and 5, Sex School and Hollyweed) to solve the crime. Fowler’s pretty good considering the material he has to work with and makes for a very likeable lead, indeed all of the human cast turn in fairly decent performances, with Jon Voight hamming it up in a delightful manner as a southern business man / villain, which the material probably doesn’t really deserve. Now maybe it’s a case of Stockholm Syndrome, as whilst the terrible puns will make you groan initially, they grind you down until you find yourself smiling at them, and then laughing at the inanity of it all.

the karate dog 6You will believe a dog can do karate. And form a fairly impressive covers band.

This film really does have it all, from unconvincing stunt doubles to fight scenes where the blows clearly don’t connect, from flirty computers to, as you can see above, an all dog covers band. There’s also a dog only party with a canine dj mixing the music, and even a Cyrano DeBergerac-esque date where Cho Cho helps Fowler romance Jaime Pressly (who isn’t in it enough but is great when she is), but where Cho Cho is distracted by a sexy poodle, in yet another scene which probably made most cringe but by this point I couldn’t help but laugh at the bizarreness of it all. For a kids movie there’s quite a few dodgy dog on dog flirtations (and a terrible bit where an underage dog attempts to seduce an older one) but by this point you won’t be surprised as quality control clearly was never a concern here.

This is of course not a good movie but it doesn’t deserve it’s painfully low imdb score (if pressed I’d suggest 5.6 out of 10), and if you’ve a fondness for nonsensical idiocy, you might just enjoy it a fair bit. That or I’ve gone mad. It’s happened before, so I wouldn’t rule it out.

Alex Finch.

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