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Case Number 07680: Small Claims Court

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Oh Heavenly Dog

Fox // 1980 // 103 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // September 30th, 2005

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All Rise...

Until doing research for this review, Judge Patrick Naugle had no idea Chevy Chase's acting career began when he was rescued from the Burbank Animal Shelter by Joe Camp.

The Charge

A "tail" of mystery, murder and puppy love.

The Case

Chevy Chase (National Lampoon's Vacation) plays Browning, private investigator that ends up on the wrong side of a knife while checking into a new case brought to him by a mysterious stranger (Omar Sharif, Lawrence of Arabia). When Browning arrives in Heaven, he's told that to get inside the pearly gates he must go back to earth and solve his own murder. However, there's a catch: He's got to do it reincarnated as a dog (Benji, to be exact). Now time is running out for Browning as he paws his way through pedestrians, open windows, and filing cabinets to find out why he was killed and make puppy eyes at a potential love interest (Jane Seymour, Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman).

Chevy Chase has made some bad movies (and this is coming from a true blue fan), but none quite so boring as Oh Heavenly Dog. Who thought this was a good idea? Chevy—way back in the late 1970s—was considered cutting edge on Saturday Night Live; he was funny, witty, and sarcastic. So who thought putting him in a movie with Benji was a good idea? It'd be like pairing Andrew Dice Clay with the Smurfs, a total disaster in the making. I sat through all 103 minutes of Oh Heavenly Dog bored out of my gourd, wishing that Chevy would do something—anything—funny. This is because nothing else in the film—not the writing, not the story, not the performances—was able to engage me in what could easily be called the cinematic equivalent of Valium.

The film was co-written and directed by Benji-creator Joe Camp, which is like Rankin & Bass producing the next Hannibal Lecter picture. It's painfully obvious that the makers of Oh Heavenly Dog shot for a more adult audience; the PG rating assures a few more curses and cleavage shots than your average adorable dog movie. Yet for all its attempts at a more sophisticated plot (a murder, hardly any children characters, etc.), Oh Heavenly Dog still feels like a flick made for ten-year-olds who like watching a dog dial a telephone with a pencil.

Chevy Chase is killed off early in the film and his detached, monotone voice is what propels the plot. If his character had something amusing to say this would be fine and dandy. Unfortunately, Chase spends most of the film narrating over a trained movie dog doing tricks. Benji is a cute mutt and, like most moviegoers, I love little cute dogs…for about ten minutes. After that, you'd better have something else in the film to catch my attention or I start to get irritable.

Surprisingly, Omar Sharif and Jane Seymour show up as the heavy and love interest respectively (though I think the film would have faired better had Seymour been the heavy and Sharif the love interest, but what do I know?). Why their agents didn't steer them clear of this debacle is a better mystery than the one being solved by the film's protagonist. If you're in the mood for a movie that has zero in the way of comedy, suspense, mystery, or fun, but oodles of dog tricks sprinkled throughout, then Oh Heavenly Dog is your kind of movie.

Oh Heavenly Dog is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The transfer of this film looks presentable, and little else—the colors are slightly faded at times, and the black levels are decent but unimpressive. Overall the movie looks like it was made in 1980: Little, it seems, has been done to make restore it. Also included on the flipside of the disc is a 1.33:1 full frame version of the feature.

The soundtrack is presented in a lackluster 2.0 Surround mix in English. There isn't much to report about this sound mix—it's front heavy with little in the way of directional effects or surround sounds. Dialogue, music, and effects are all clearly recorded and well heard. Also included on this disc are English and Spanish subtitles.

Aside from a few trailers for other Fox films, Oh Heavenly Dog is a barebones disc.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 50

Perp Profile

Studio: Fox
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
• English
• Spanish
Running Time: 103 Minutes
Release Year: 1980
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
• All Ages
• Bad
• Comedy

Distinguishing Marks

• Bonus Trailers


• IMDb

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