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Run, Benji, Run!
on July 31, 2006
This second film consists mostly of scenes of Benji running. That doesn't have to be a bad thing. The first Benji film consisted mostly of scenes of Benji running, too, but it was quite good. This follow-up isn't as good, but for other reasons.
On the positive side, returning writer/director Joe Camp stuck with something unusual that he did in the first film--he did the film from a dog's point of view. That doesn't mean that the film is in first person from Benji's perspective. Imagine more a dog directing. The content, kinds of shots and kinds of angles are mostly what a dog might do. It made the first film, with its very unusual structure, a success, and it more or less makes this one, which also has an unusual structure, well, not exactly a success, but it makes it "kinda work".
A couple factors bring the success rate down a bit. The story takes place in Greece this time--in a move that seems like maybe the crew and cast wanted a paid vacation in Greece--and a lot of dialogue is in Greek, without subtitles. Although interesting for adults, that's a particularly odd move for a family film, and the goal here is definitely to make a family film--Camp even announces this at the very beginning onscreen.
Also odd for a family picture, most of the human-sourced interaction in the film features people attacking or chasing Benji--with chloroform, with meat cleavers, with fruit, with a big mean Doberman, and with guns. Not that it's graphic in any way, but the concept is there, and Benji's running is mostly precipitated by unfriendly people chasing him.
There is a complex plot involving scientific research, where they want to use Benji for nefarious goals, and where Benji seems to be world-famous, all of which is never explained very well. Heck, most of the dialogue about this is in Greek, although the science-oriented stuff is very sketchily explained in English at the end. Benji being so well-known is never explained.
And a final problem--even though the first film was also as if directed by a dog, there were important human characters who had some depth to them. That's not the case here. Benji's owners are hardly in the film and the villains are almost completely non-developed the short amount of time that they're in the film.
So we're left primarily with Benji running and running through Greece. Through airports. Through the city streets. Just outside of the city near some ancient ruins. The scenery is nice and nicely shot, Benji does some neat trained actions, and insofar as Camp explores everyday dog stuff, the film is rewarding. Heck, the chased-by-villains scenes are pretty rewarding, too, even if plotwise, you don't know exactly what's going on or why it's going on.
This may be the worst Benji film (and I don't know yet, since I'm just rewatching them now after not seeing them for many years), and it may not be a great film for kids for a couple reasons, but it is still very mildly recommendable, especially for fans of Benji films and animal films in general, or for anyone who wants a glimpse of what Greece was like in 1977. It's also amusing to note how much Benji looks like Ron Wood.