on February 8, 2010
As a grown man not prone to crying, by the end of this film I was a blubbering mess, and I've probably not shed a tear in more than ten years. Anyone who loves dogs, I imagine, will be in the same state after witnessing the amazing loyalty displayed by one selfless canine.
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.
on August 11, 2009
From Tokyo, where the film has just opened: In Japan, most people know about Hachiko, especially in Tokyo; his statue is a popular meeting place in the Shibuya shopping area. The true story of Hachiko is just as well known here in Japan. In this review, I assume that you know the basic story outline. Still, if you wish to avoid what you may consider a spoiler concerning a turning point in the story, then avoid reading after this paragraph, as I discuss a central plot point--but not one which really gives too much away, any more than it spoils the movie "Titanic" to know that at some point, they hit an iceberg. Still, I wanted to warn you just in case--someone who never heard of the Titanic before might enjoy the whole iceberg twist.
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.
on March 10, 2010
This brilliant film, full of magnificent performances, does not preach, but will pierce the hardest heart.
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.
on November 29, 2009
"Hachiko: A Dog's Tale" is directed by Lasse Hallstrom (The Cider House Rules), and is based loosely on the real life story of a dog, named Hachiko, who was born in Odate, Japan in 1923. His master, Dr. Eisaburg Ueno, was a professor at the University of Tokyo who died in 1925. Hachiko returned to the Shibuya train station the next day, and every day for the next nine years until he died in 1934. Today, outside the Shibuya train station, where Hachiko waited, is a bronze statue of Hachiko.
In this particular movie we have a similar story, only the dog is in transport to the United States, where he escapes, and ends up in Parker Wilson's (Richard Gere) possession. Parker eventually decides to keep the dog since the owner cannot be found. Hachiko, or Hachi, as he is usually called here, at one point breaks free of his yard, and follows Parker to the train station. Eventually Hachi is allowed to accompany Paker to the train station everyday. But at one point Parker never returns to the train station, since he has died at the university.
The movie then becomes a tale of a loyalty that reaches far into the bonds of memory. Hachiko never realizes that his master has died, and even though he never sees his master again, he never forgets him. What is Hachi's purpose now that his master has died? His purpose seems to be to wait for his master who will never return. It is at once moving and heartrending, as it is a tragedy of sorts, and one that is only resolved once Hachiko also dies. This is a beautifully told tale that makes one think about the things that are important for us to go on living, even after those that we have loved have died.
on March 28, 2010
As the owner of an Akita for almost 12 years (now at 'The Bridge'), I have been anxiously waiting for the Hachiko Monogatari, 1987 Japanese production, to be adapted for the American audience. I was so pleased that they kept the story simple; one of a man and his dog, of forging bonds of unconditional love and devotion. And, even though I knew the story very well and, prepared myself in advance, the tears were inevitable.
Going straight to DVD, this film will not be a big money maker, therefore, I consider it a timeless gift and treasure, from all involved with the project. It was not easy, taking a year to complete, clearly becoming a labor of love. Watching Gere interact with the dogs, you can tell he is truly in his element. The joy on his face makes you believe that Hachi really is his devoted companion. I truly thank and respect Gere for joining such a challenging endeavor and I can't think of anyone more perfect for the role of the sensitive Professor.
Throughout the film, it was made fairly clear, that Akitas are not typical dogs. This was further evidenced in the 'Making of the Film.' The trainers thought they had met their match, when two months into the project, the dogs simply would not perform. They found that Akitas are no trick-ponies; they are stubborn and don't suffer foolish tasks. With much patience, the project was eventually successful. You will also find a comment following the credits about how Akitas are NOT for everyone. I consider these additions to the film to represent responsible education regarding Akita ownership, and, I applaud them for the inclusions.
I must add, that although I dearly love Akitas, they are not the only breed with histories of bravery and devotion. Given proper training and bonding, some mixed breed dogs that we unfortunately see chained in backyards, might show the same call of duty. It's not so much about the breed, but creating the connection---opening one's heart, and truly letting that furry creature in, which Gere lovingly demonstrates in the film.
I think Hachiko's story is a good reminder, that ALL dogs have thinking, emotive minds; that they are, family, not something to be possessed. That said, Hachi will continue to educate us from the grave, for generations to come. I can't think of a more profound legacy.
This is a beautifully rendered, family film---one that, once watched, will never be forgotten. It is destined to become a classic. I can't recommend it highly enough; just have tissues at hand.
on September 3, 2009
This is a story everyone in Japan knows. Based on the true story of a dog called "Chuken-Hachiko (meaning "A loyal dog Hachiko") that lived in Shibuya, Tokyo, "Hachiko: A Dog's Tale" is a moving tale about friendship and loyalty between a man and a dog.
In "Hachiko: A Dog's Tale" Richard Gere plays Parker Wilson, a college professor teaching music. One evening Parker finds a lost puppy at the station of fictional east coast town Bedridge, where he lives with his wife Cate (Joan Allen) and daughter Andy (Sarah Roemer). (The film was actually shot in Rhode Island.) No one at the station knows why the puppy is there, so the professor takes the dog home and keeps him. The puppy's name is Hachi, which means "eight" in Japanese.
Hachi grows up and it becomes his custom to wait for the professor at the station every day at 5 pm. Hachi becomes a fixture of the station and a favorite of the commuters. When they think their happy times last forever, however, something happens, and Hachi has to wait Parker much longer than he used to do.
Richard Gere (who also co-produced the film) turns in a solid performance as usual, as a family man who reluctantly takes care of a lost puppy, but the real star of the film is, not surprising, Hachi himself as the faithful dog. Among the supports, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as Parker's friend, Jason Alexander as the station master and Erick Avari as a hot dog vendor are memorable, but unfortunately female supports including Joan Allen, Sarah Roemer and Davenia McFadden are a bit wasted in this comparatively short film.
"Hachiko: A Dog's Tale" is an American remake of "Hachiko monogatari" (1987) directed by Seijirô Kôyama. The Japanese film's story is inspired by the true story of an Akita dog Hachiko (1923-35) and the professor of Tokyo Imperial University (today's The University of Tokyo) Hidesabur' Ueno (1871-1925). Those who have visited Tokyo may remember the bronze stature of the dog at JR Shibuya station where Hachi was once seen.
Helmed by the director Lasse Hallström ("What's Eating Gilbert Grape" "My Life as a Dog"), the film is a good example of a simple story well told. It is not a big story, but its emotional power is undeniable.
on March 7, 2010
Forget about MARLEY AND ME. HACHI is a more emotional, honest, and altogether more poignant film about the relationship between a man who adopts a young Akita pup and the bond that develops that between them. It is sad, but in a good way, and even though it has a G rating, it's a more powerful film than MARLEY AND ME, which had some objectionable adult content and a melodramatic, saccharine script. HACHI is superior to it in terms of its filmmaking and central story, a credit to director Lasse Hallstrom (CHOCOLAT) who has made some wonderful movies and adds yet another to his resume here.
Richard Gere is sensitive and wonderful, the Rhode Island location shooting and the low-key script all combine to create a fabulous film suitable for all ages.
Don't miss it -- and be prepared not only to have some kleenexes on-hand (my wife and I both broke down!), but also to do some research into the "real" Hachi once it's over, as this is based on a legendary true story that happened in Japan in the 1920s. Outstanding!
on March 22, 2010
I am not a movie fan. When I watch a movie with my wife, it is usually without enthusiasm, and I generally find myself sneaking peeks at my watch every few minutes, calculating how much longer the movie will run. Prior to seeing the story of "Hachi", Richard Gere meant little to me. His portrayal of the master of "Hachi", though, was moving, sweet, and ingratiating. Mr. Gere is the most prominent actor in a fine cast, which helps to make this movie transformational. The story depicts with love and sensitivity the strong and indelible bond between man and his eternal best friend, the dog. Hachi is a loving akita who is loyal to the character played by Mr. Gere, seeming to always remember that it was Gere who rescued the lost pup at a train station. Originally intending to find the rightful owner of the dog, something which did not ever happen despite significant initial effort, the two quickly become inseparable, devoted companions. Theirs was a devotion which transcended death. Following the sudden and untimely passing of the character played by Mr. Gere, Hachi continued to wait at the train station at which he would greet his master when he returned home from work each day. Certain scenes and premises are implausible, such as when years after his death, the master's widow returns to the area the two had lived in together, surprised to see Hachi at his daily perch in the town square, as he had done for years. The bittersweet and moving reunion between the two renders the implausability of the scene unimportant. This movie is all the more powerful in consideration of the fact that it is based on a true story from Japan, in which Hachi lived in the 1920's and 1930's. Hachi is honored with a statue on the site of his daily vigil, and is memorialized by Japanese dog-lovers every year to this day. The story of Hachi is one that I cannot get out of my mind, and it shall always be dear to me. At a time in which our world is becoming increasingly coarse and uncivil, how wonderful to find an uplifting and inspirational movie like this, and it is rated 'G'! Everyone who loves and is sensitive to animals, everyone with a heart and soul, should see it. You will be glad you did. You should be prepared to be overcome with emotion.
When I heard that our family movie for the evening was a "dog movie" with a "G" rating, I have to admit that I was less than enthusiastic and went into the experience with extremely low expectations. I've got to hand it to Richard Gere for being involved in an extremely classy family movie that has something for everyone. I found the movie to be well-done and quite enjoyable. One thing that gives this show emotional punch is that it is based on a true story. If the G-rating puts you off, don't let it. If you are hesitant because it's a "dog movie" get over it. This show is a real treat, and I'm glad I watched it.
I enjoyed the story line, the acting, it's watchability for people of all ages, and its message.
MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, AND THE BIGGEST SURPRISE OF THE WEEK FOR ME.
on March 22, 2010
This movie is a rare find and movie making at its best.
When was the last time you saw a really good G-rated movie that can move you to tears that had with no violence, cgi or special effects? I commend the excellent job of the writers, cast, director, producers, akita dogs, and all those behind the scenes like the dog trainers/handlers and staff to produce this amazing film of the love between a man and his dog and the unceasing loyalty of this beloved dog. This film touched me and if you are an animal lover, I'm sure it will have you in tears too. I wish they made more movies of this caliber.