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dog days

dog days

Friday, August 11, 2017

C.H.O.M.P.S.


C.H.O.M.P.S.
1979
Don Chaffey

Brian Foster (Wesley Eure) works for a security company. He is also dating Casey (Valerie Bertinelli), who happens to be the daughter of his boss, Ralph Norton (Conrad Bain). Brian’s job is on the line after a recent screw-up, so he decides to unveil his latest invention: Canine HOme Protection System or C.H.O.M.P.S. This creation is a small robot that looks just like a dog, but just happens to have super strength, x-ray vision, and a tape player for reproducing goofy cartoon sound effects.

A movie about robot dog seems rife with possibility. Even if you don't feel like wading into musings on the nature of life and free will, there’s plenty of comedy to mine out of a small dog that happens to be a physical powerhouse and a brilliant computer. C.H.O.M.P.S. ignores all of this, and instead endlessly repeats a loop of bungling robbers, silly robot malfunctions, and endless chase scenes set to upbeat 1970’s action news music. C.H.O.M.P.S. was the first and only collaboration between Hanna-Barbera and American International Pictures, and after viewing it, I can see why.

What it feels like to watch this movie.
Comedy films are tough. A horror or science fiction film can fail and succeed on a number of levels and still be watchable. A comedy film has one overarching goal, it needs to be funny, or it becomes a barely watchable slog. The comedy in C.H.O.M.P.S. consists of terrible slapstick and mugging for the camera. It is very mild, even for what is ostensibly a kid's movie. For no explainable reason, the creators of the film decided to spice things up with the interior monologue of a dog named Monster, who is prone to dropping a few curse words once and a while. No other animals talk in the entire film. Monster has zero impact on the plot, and I only assume was inserted at some point to give the movie a PG rating.

If you like notable TV actors then this might be the movie for you, Conrad Bain of Different Strokes fame, Jim Backus from Gilligan’s Island, and Valerie Bertinelli, star of One Day at a Time, all have roles. The acting in the film is relatively good, especially when watching these actors try and bring something to the nonsense plot and unending dearth of comedy throughout its run-time. C.H.O.M.P.S. himself isn’t called on to do much more than run and occasionally jump on someone. The dog doesn’t have much charisma on screen, but he hits his marks and does what he is supposed to with a minimum of fuss.

Must be running on Windows 10
The film briefly mentions C.H.O.M.P.S. as not having any real affection or emotions. This element is entirely forgotten for the rest of the story until the end, when it is brought up again for one "heartfelt"scene. This is promptly dropped by the time the final wacky wrap-up gives way to the credits.

I have no way to show C.H.O.M.P.S. any affection because it doesn’t deserve any. It’s a middling, unfunny, ramshackle mess of a movie. C.H.O.M.P.S. needs to be euthanized and thrown in the recycling bin.

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