Hachi: A Dog's Tale
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From Academy Award®-nominated director Lasse Hallström (2000, The Cider House Rules) comes HACHI: A DOG’S TALE, a film based on one of the most treasured and heartwarming true stories ever told. Golden Globe winner Richard Gere (2002, Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy, Chicago) stars as Professor Parker Wilson, a distinguished scholar who discovers a lost Akita puppy on his way home from work. Despite initial objections from Wilson’s wife, Cate (Academy Award® nominee Joan Allen – 2000, Best Actress, The Contender), Hachi endears himself into the Wilson family and grows to be Parker's loyal companion. As their bond grows deeper, a beautiful relationship unfolds embodying the true spirit of family and loyalty, while inspiring the hearts of an entire town.
Based on a true story from Japan, Hachi: A Dog's Tale is a moving film about loyalty and the rare, invincible bonds that occasionally form almost instantaneously in the most unlikely places. College professor Parker Wilson (Richard Gere) finds a young Akita puppy that's been abandoned at the local train station, and he's instantly captivated by the dog. Assuming the dog's owner will return to the train station to claim him in the morning, Parker takes the puppy home overnight. But when no one comes to get the dog, Parker convinces his wife, Cate (Joan Allen), to welcome him as part of the family. He dubs the puppy Hachiko--Hachi, for short--because of the Japanese symbol for good luck that's hanging from his collar. Hachi is a somewhat peculiar dog that refuses to learn to fetch or master other people-pleasing tricks, but he is a faithful companion and friend to Parker, alerting him of potential dangers and accompanying him to the train station each morning and meeting him there after his return trip each evening. An unforeseen event will continually test Hachi's devotion. This film is neither overwrought nor sappy; it is heartfelt and immensely powerful despite its tendency to drag in a few places. Prepare to be moved to tears by this beautiful, seemingly simple film--it's about so much more than just the relationship between a man and his dog. --Tami Horiuchi
Top Customer Reviews
I'd actually heard the story many times. A loyal dog returns to train station to meet his master even after he dies. But the film really brings the point home following the entire life span of the dog. But what I feel makes this film stand out is how it shows the perspective of the dog, a great reminder that "Hachi" is the protagonist in the film and giving insight into the emotions he felt. Additionally, the dog was portrayed as a dog, not a human character in a dog suit capable of impossible feats and acts, which for me, made the story so much more enjoyable and made the dog so much more believable.
Please disregard the one-star rating given by the Akita breeder in Nevada who didn't really rate the film so much as criticize peoples tendency to purchase dogs because of movie influences. It should also be noted that the Japanese Akita as a breed would have most likely disappeared had it not been for the original Hachi's popularity in Japan during the 1930's when the story was popularized by local newspapers of the time.
I would rate this as probably the best dog movie ever to come out of Hollywood. If you've made it so far as to read reviews, you really should just buy it. I can't imagine any dog lover being disappointed in this magnificent film.
The story: a faithful dog comes to meet his master at the train station every evening when he returns home, and when the master, a college professor, dies at his school and does not return, Hachiko continues to come and wait at the station every day for nine years to wait for his master's return. The very thought of such a loyal, sweet animal being so, well, doggedly committed to finding his master is bound to bring tears to most people's eyes--and it didn't fail here, with there being a considerable amount of sniffling and eye-dabbing in the theater. "Not a dry eye in the house" comes to mind. If you like schmaltzy tearjerkers and cute fuzzy dogs, then this is your kind of movie.
The basic story remains the same as the actual one, but builds up a new human dram around the dog story--which succeeds in not detracting from the central story at the same time. You never stray far from the dog, it's clear that Hachi is the protagonist and at most we spend three minutes away from him at any one time. Nevertheless, the characters are fairly well developed for what they are--supporting roles. Joan Allen does a good job as the wife reluctant to allow another dog in the family after the last one left them. Jason Alexander has a bit of fun as the self-centered station manager, and recognizable character actor Erick Avari does an excellent job as a hot dog and coffee vendor outside the station. Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa did surprisingly well as the Japanese expert at the college. But the dog is the star, and does a good job of keeping our attention.
I contrast this with a movie from last year in Japan, "The Tale of Mari & 3 Puppies," about a Shiba Inu dog owned by a family when a large earthquake hits the region. The movie, billed primarily as a dog movie, mostly focused on the family and featured more than a little over-acting from the supporting cast, and failed to show us the cute doggies so much. In "Hachi," it's the reverse--you get lots of dog time, but also a nicely-rounded drama with good acting all around.
A few things were overdone, but not to bad effect. At the movie's outset, we see Hachi as having been sent, unattended in a bamboo cage, all the way from Japan--not just Japan, but from a Buddhist temple in Japan--only to be lost on the last leg of his journey when he falls off of a handcart at Gere's train station. That (a) the person pulling the cart could be so careless and (b) that whatever local person paid so much money to have the dog shipped and then never inquire as to what happened to him, well, is kind of pushing it. It feels as if Gere wanted to put in a nice Buddhist reference and have Hachiko's tale be a bit more dramatic. You kind of roll your eyes at all this, but it doesn't get in the way of the story. None of the overdone bits go so far as to really distract from the story, and they do work well at the emotional level. In the end, what you have is a fun little drama about an adorable, faithful dog with a tearful ending; the movie does very well being what it is supposed to be.
A bit of background: the story of Hachiko is not completely without controversy. There are some who claim that the story was deliberately popularized in fascist pre-war Japan as a means of inculcating loyalty to the emperor and to the state--the idea being that Hachiko's utter faithfulness up to the bitter end was a model that the government wanted the people to follow in supporting the state. Of course, Gere's film does not come close to this; there is even a specific reference to loyalty as pertaining to those one loves. Other detractors of the story contend that Hachiko was not being faithful to his owner, but had simply become addicted to the treats given to him by shops and vendors near the station (interestingly also included in the new film).
A small note: Hachiko, both in reality and in most of the film, was an Akita, but in this movie, Hachiko the puppy was played by a Shiba Inu, a smaller, related breed whose main difference is in their size and temperament. Despite being regarded as a "goof" in the IMDB database, this was an intentional choice by the film's producers, who decided that a Shiba puppy would be easier to handle, easier to train for what was needed--so says a book released in Japan concerning the film.
I extend my deepest appreciation to Mr. Hallstrom, Richard Gere, Joan Allen, and the Akita trainers for bringing this unforgettable story into my home, where it will be enjoyed again, and again.
My wife, who NEVER comments on a movie, said "That was one of the best movies I have ever seen."
Our 14-year-old Beagle usually rests in one place for ten minutes and moves to another spot in the room. While we watched HACHI, she remained between us on the sofa for the entire movie. She sensed our contentedness and rose only to lick our faces during the film's powerful emotional scenes.
Kudos to Mr. Gere for his diligence in making his relationship with the dogs feel genuine...and for the most amazing death scene I have ever witnessed portrayed in a film.
Since the real HACHIKO died in 1934, this film was long overdue, but more than worth the wait.