This week on Kids’ Film Friday we’ve got another recommendation from Andy. He’s given me two bum suggestions in the past, but will it be third time lucky?
And Bingo was his name-o!
Runaway circus dog Bingo stumbles across a kid named Chuckie (no not that one) drowning in a stream he was trying to jump across on his bike. After the dog pulls him out of the water and revives him with CPR, Chuckie and Bingo become inseparable. When Chuckie’s dad Hal – kicker for the Denver Broncos – is traded to Green Bay, Bingo gets left behind. Cue a road trip involving armed robbers, hookers, a prison break and a roadside diner with its own special secret ingredient as Bingo tries to catch up with his true companion.
Jeez, where do I start with this? The idea of a dog that can read, give directions over the telephone using Morse code, gets himself locked up in jail (human jail!) for contempt of court, and of course not forgetting the whole CPR thing is so patently ridiculous as to seem a complete waste of time but this movie, directed by Matthew Robbins, is actually a parody of that trend of “smart animal” flicks that popped up through the eighties and early nineties. It embraces its excesses wholeheartedly and the result is an hour and a half of surprisingly dark fun for the whole family.
Robbins directed five movies between 1978 and this in 1991, but he has a lot more credits as a screenwriter, including Mimic and the as-yet-unproduced At The Mountains Of Madness script, both for one of my favourite directors Guillermo Del Toro. While he isn’t credited as a writer on Bingo (that honour goes to Jim Strain, writer of Jumanji), this flick includes a lot of the freewheeling yet mildly subversive comedy that peeks through a lot of his scripts.
All the performances are pitched just right to play into the tone of the film, but I have to single out Robert J Steinmiller Jr as young Chuckie, David “Sledgehammer!” Rasche as his dad Hal, and the two all-purpose criminals Joe Guzaldo and a shockingly young-looking Kurt Fuller. The star of the show is undoubtedly Bingo himself though. Much like Quentin Dupieux did with Robert the tyre, Robbins and his team of dog trainers manage to make Bingo seem actually capable of everything he does, including the (thankfully off-screen) undressing of the half-drowned Chuckie and hanging his clothes up to dry! He even gets an actual, honest-to-God character arc with dramatic flashback sequences and everything.
Initial appearances to the contrary, Bingo is pretty far from a Disney movie, and it’s all the better because of it. It works for kids as a straight-forward doggy adventure, but it is also a successful pastiche of the Air Buds of the world with plenty of gags for the grown ups to appreciate. Be warned though, that song becomes a running gag through the film, and will be crawling around in your head for days.