Digital Spy

Search Digital Spy
21

Movies Review

Hachi: A Dog's Tale

By
Hachi: A Dog's Tale

© Rex Features

Canine cinema, that curious sub-genre capitalising on our affection for man's best friend, has shown signs of overrunning Hollywood in the last couple of years. Bolt, Hotel For Dogs and Beverly Hills Chihuahua had the kids market cornered, while Marley & Me was a bona fide juggernaut blockbuster. There's even been a lyrical indie gem in the form of Dean Spanley. Certainly dogs, with their boundless enthusiasm and capacity to love unconditionally, are ahead of felines as filmmaker favourites - that too-cool-for-school aloofness means cats should always be treated with suspicion! It's strange, then, with this pooch favouritism in mind, that Hachi: A Dog's Tale is the first dog-centric film of 2010.

Based on the true tale of a Japanese Akita dog that became a national icon, the story is transplanted to the US as Richard Gere's college professor Parker Wilson finds the eponymous hound abandoned at the train station on his commute home. Unable to find an owner or palm him off on station worker Carl (Jason Alexander), Parker takes him in for the night, much to the chagrin of his wife Cate (Joan Allen). Parker and the hound quickly establish a bond and, as Cate is won over thanks to pressure from daughter Andy (Sara Roemer), Hachi (meaning "eight", the Japanese symbol on the dog's collar) becomes part of the family. Soon Parker is walking with Hachi to the train station in the morning and finding the dog waiting when he arrives home. When he's down on all fours with a ball in his mouth trying to teach Hachi 'fetch', Cate firmly believes her husband has "lost it".

Guided by Oscar nominee Lasse Hallström, Hachi feels like a lot like a live-action Disney animation. There's slushy sentiment and heart-warming scenes of comedy (like Parker and Hachi's battle with a skunk) as the film hits the required notes. Then, in Disney-like tradition, a shock death sends the characters into a tailspin. The tonal shift takes a warm and fuzzy film about unbreakable friendship into something that's a little unusual: a broken-hearted dog dealing with grief. It's a tricky turn that veers into emotional exploitation, but aided by Gere's affectionate performance with the pooch (he has better chemistry with the canine than Joan Allen!) there's a tingle of sadness when they're pulled apart and Hachi stoically stands a lonely vigil waiting to be reunited with his master.

Likely to be critically savaged, and not even deemed fit for a theatrical release in the US, Hachi will find fans in dog lovers and younger viewers thanks to its gentle sweetness and the titular hound's enduring cuteness. It drags in places, the direction could never be called anything more than workmanlike and it's occasionally hilariously bad (the aforementioned skunk face-off), but in the canon of recent canine cinema, there are far worse movies than this.


> What do you think of the movie? Share your views

You May Like

Comments

Loading...