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Turner and Hooch (August 23/02)

Turner and Hooch is old enough now that, I'm assuming, anyone who has any interest in the film would have seen it already. So, since I'm going to give away a pivotal plot point, stop reading.

If you have seen the film, you probably already know what I'm talking about. As enjoyably fluffy as the movie is, the ending is completely unnecessary and unwarranted. I'm talking about, of course, Hooch's demise. Sure, it's a noble death - the dog dies protecting Tom Hanks' Turner - but still, it feels out of place and out of synch with the rest of the movie. It certainly doesn't help that the film has been building up their relationship for the majority of the running time; the storyline is incredibly thin and not nearly as interesting as the chemistry between Turner and Hooch.

As the film opens, Turner is getting ready for a transfer to a better job in a bigger town. While showing his replacement around (Die Hard's Reginald VelJohnson), we meet a crusty old man who lives by the water with his even crustier old dog, Hooch. Later, after a thug kills the crusty old man, Turner finds himself stuck with Hooch due in part to a sense of loyalty but mostly because he suspects Hooch might be able to identify the killer. Though Turner initially hates the dog (and for good reason; he demolishes Turner's meticulous apartment), he eventually comes to respect and even like Hooch. And then we're hit with that ending.

There's not much of a plot here, and indeed, several sequences feel as though they were mostly improvised by Hanks on the set. The most obvious example of this is the scene in which Turner and Hooch are on a stakeout and have to spend several hours in a car. Hanks goes off on various tangents, from Hooch's sanitary habits to his love of an old TV show featuring chimps in starring roles. It's entertaining enough, but makes the lack of a solid storyline seem incredibly obvious. Really, the movie boils down to this: Turner's got to solve this case and has to work with Hooch since he's the only one who can identify the killer. There aren't really any subplots, save a surprisingly engaging romance between Turner and a new-to-town vet (played by Mare Winningham).

So, the film has spent all this time building up the relationship between Hanks and the dog, and it's gotten to a point where we really like the two of them. And yes, Hanks has great chemistry with Hooch. But, as was typical of most '80s comedies, Turner and Hooch turns into an action flick towards the end. Turner's figured everything out, but he's completely out-numbered. Things look grim, but Hooch comes to the rescue and winds up taking a bullet to the chest for his trouble. The film ends with Hooch dead but survived by puppies. The puppies are supposed to make us forget that Hooch is six feet under, but it doesn't really work. It concludes the movie on a downbeat note that really wasn't necessary.

Still, Hanks is at his wacky and lovable best here, so the movie is certainly worth checking out for that reason.

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