First Look Pictures // 2003 // 86 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // April 23rd, 2004
Part dog. Part machine. All best friend. (Gaaaagggghhhhh)
Poor Nino, he's a loser with no friends. Surprising, as he does have a nice, friendly golden retriever and a really hot mom. Maybe the fact that he's a whiny cheeseball has something to do with it. Anyway, Nino and his dog, Rex, are best buddies; in fact, Rex is the world to Nino, and this worries his mom, Juliet (Michelle Nolden). Her husband having kicked the bucket, she sees Nino's closed-off nature a symptom of their loss, and worries about his mental health and social standing (I, however, have my own opinion; see: cheeseball, whiny).
While walking through the park, Rex, Juliet, and Nino encounter a bizarre man walking around in a set-up not entirely unlike Doc Brown's Back to the Future mind-reading gear. Turns out, this buffoon is a scientist too. Alex (Judd Nelson) is a millionaire pursuing some revolutionary advances in the field of bionics (the movie is smart enough to laugh at the notion, citing the old Six Million Dollar Man).
Alex is a nitwit, and as such almost gets plowed over by an SUV that happens to be driving full-bore in a park. Rex, ever the hero, pushes Bender out of the way and gets smacked by the truck. Distraught over the dog's injury -- and the fact that old Rex is lying prone -- Nino wails in despair. Feeling indebted to the dog, Alex implores Nino and Juliet to let his lab treat Rex. Bewilderingly, they agree (hmm, a trained veterinarian, or a nerd in a spacesuit?).
As the hours tick by and Rex is about to croak and fetch the River Styx, Nino and Juliet pace nervously. Alex lets them know of his plan to surgically implant bionics into Rex, making him faster, stronger, and smarter than, well probably any of the characters we've met in the movie so far.
Rex remains comatose, however. Meanwhile, the token villains -- members of the United Federation of Eurotrash Terrorists ("proudly supplying Eastern European mercenaries since 1988") -- look to steal Alex's revolutionary Theta Chip, responsible for the augmented brain and muscle power.
But when Rex comes to, and emerges as a freakish melding of canine and alkaline, it's the villains who will be in for the shock. Intent on pilfering the chip, they kidnap Nino in an attempt to lure Rex into their trap, where they can execute the oh-so-complex task of capturing and incapacitating a golden retriever. Along the way, love is found, betrayals are tendered, and dogs jump in the air in slow motion.
Cybermutt is your typical recycled, kids-goopy swill, that's less "cyber" and more "mutt." Seriously, the dog doesn't get all "cybernetic-organism" until a third of the movie has passed. And after that point, Rex essentially jumps high in the air and chases after balls quicker than normal.
The "Dog's Eye" point-of-view was especially intriguing as it used a Terminator-like viewpoint with superfluous cursors and blinking lights and targeting crosshairs. What's funny is the fact that the computer communicates with Rex in English. Eh? Come again?
The movie follow the similar formula of -- spoiler warning! -- uniting the mom and the quirky new father figure and empowering the little kid to stand up to his tormentors. In fact, the last scene finds Nino hanging out on the porch with his new friend. Aw, shucks.
Hey, none of this is bad if the movie had been remotely entertaining or smart or original. Well it ain't. I suppose you could plop a couple of kids in front of the flick and they'd stare at it blankly, but it's not going to be a substantive blank stare.
The movie is presented in a widescreen format, which, given its straight-to-television origins, is notable. The picture is sharp enough, and -- this being a kids' movie named Cybermutt -- the colors are bright. Sound is a blah 2.0 mix. For those interested in looking at the hard-hitting behind-the-scenes extravaganza of how Cybermutt came to be, find director George Miller and talk to him. There's nothing on this disc for you.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: First Look Pictures
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Rated PG