You would not believe how many dog related films have been made. Or maybe you would believe it. I do not know. I do not know you. Or maybe I do? Who knows? Okay, let us back away from the hypothetical ledge (in more ways than one), and get back to dog films. Yes, nothing says cinematic gold like having a pooch in your movie. No? Are you telling me (I am telling myself) that there has never been a smash hit motion picture with a canine as the principal character? Look, I love dogs. I wish I had one, but the old man I live with remains inexplicably stubborn on this point. As such, I must live vicariously through anyone who has one for a pet, which I guess is something. Or I can watch dog related films. Hence, I give you Turner & Hooch (1989).
The Turner in Turner & Hooch is Scott Turner (Tom Hanks). Scott is a police investigator (note that I did not say “detective”) for a sleepy California coastal town called Cypress Beach. He is meticulous to a fault, and does not let messes sit. He is also in the process of moving to Sacramento to take a job in a law enforcement office where there is a little more going on than checking out old man Amos Reed’s (John McIntire) complaints about strange noises coming from the local fishery. He and his partner and eventual replacement, David Sutton (Reginald VelJohnson), briefly interview Walter Boyett (J. C. Quinn), the owner of the next-door seafood warehouse, who protests nothing untoward happening. It seems like business as usual until David and Scott get a call about a family that found a plastic bag full of money washed upon the shore. This is the most excitement they have had in some time, but this, too, goes by the board for the time being. Later that night, Amos’ dog Hooch, a massively strong giant of a mutt with whom Scott had a run-in earlier, begins barking at activity coming from the neighboring docks. It turns out that Amos is right, there is something fishy (sorry, I could not resist) going down at the Boyett plant. Specifically, Boyett has one of his henchmen, a former special forces operative named Zack Gregory (Scott Paulin), murder the employee who let the money be discovered on the beach. Zack then goes over to Amos’ boat house and ends up putting a knife into the old man’s back. This gets an earlier than usual call from the office for Scott, and he and David head there to scrutinize the scene. There is only one problem: what to do with Hooch. Several officers had already been maimed by the dog, who does not want to leave the spot where Amos died. The animal control specialists who are brought in to take Hooch away do not meet with much success either. Instead, they leave Hooch to be dealt with by Scott, who sees the canine as a potential use in figuring out who offed Amos. Scott is able to essentially trick Hooch into his car, and when the local veterinarian, Dr. Emily Carson (Mare Winningham) says that she cannot take in the overly large French Mastiff, Scott is stuck with 100 pounds of energetic slobber. Still, he caught Emily’s eye, so he has that going for him. When Scott brings Hooch into his home, he shows the dog around, telling him all the things that are off-limits. Further, Hooch must reside in a breezeway in the back of the house. As you can probably guess, as soon as Scott is away buying supplies for the dog, Hooch breaks free and destroys a good portion of Scott’s stuff, drooling all the way. Deciding that he cannot leave Hooch alone at home, Scott decides to take his erstwhile pet with him to work. There, Hooch notices a wedding going on across the street, and sees Zack amongst those congregating outside. Breaking free of the desk to which he is attached, Hooch takes off into the street, forcing Scott to follow. With David’s assistance, they are able to get the license plate number off the car in which Zack flees. Further, because Zack had been amongst the guests at a ceremony involving Boyett’s family, it gives Scott probable cause to search the fishery. Their search turns up nothing other than some of the same plastic baggies in which the money was found. Once more, Scott appears to have hit a dead end. Further, Scott’s boss, Chief Howard Hyde (Craig T. Nelson), takes him off the case citing his impending move to Sacramento. Some hours later, in the midst of an evening spent with Emily, Scott realizes that he had been going about the case all wrong, and that they had examined the incorrect side of Boyett’s building. Taking Hooch with him, with whom a bond is forming, Scott stake’s out the fishery. There, David brings him the money that had been recovered, and Scott gives it to Hooch to sniff. Hooch is able to connect the money and the factory. Next, Scott finds Zack, and with Hooch’s mouth around the killer’s neck, is able to extract a confession. Now, the only matter left is shutting down Boyett’s operation. To do so, Scott turns to Chief Hyde, though he suspects his boss is in on the operation. In the showdown, Chief Hyde shoots Boyett, and mortally wounds Hooch, but ends up going down for his crimes. Sadly, Hooch passes away in Emily’s clinic. All these events, though, lead Scott to stay in town, becoming the new chief, moving in with Emily, and getting a puppy with the same penchant for destruction.
Turner & Hooch is meant to be a light-hearted sort of buddy-cop flick. What a whacky combination, right? A neat-freak policeman and a massive canine that leaves its, er, mark wherever it goes? How could one not laugh at the comedic scenarios to come out of putting these two together? Yet, it turns in to a serious action drama towards the end, the worst part being when the dog dies. How could you let the dog die?! Given the earlier tone of the film, it would have made just as much sense if they had let Hooch live. Still, while he was with Scott, Hooch taught his human a lot about patience. It may seem strange to say, but such lessons can come from a simple animal with spit trails hanging out each side of its mouth. Catholicism has many tales of these moments coming from unlikely sources. Indeed, Jesus himself was unexpected, from a certain point of view. In John 1:46, one of the Apostles before following Jesus asks if anything good can come from Nazareth. Further, the Israelites thought their Messiah would be a mighty king, not a humble carpenter. From then on, there are so many examples of saints rising not always from the ranks of the clergy, where one might think them most apt to come from, but from places where most would be last to look. St. Maria Goretti, patron saint of rape victims, was eleven when she was attacked. On her deathbed, the result of the assault, she continued to beg forgiveness for the person who committed the crime. The point here is that life is not always going to be smooth. Sometimes you will have to take care a dog the size of a small bear who will chew on many of your prized possessions. Of course, that is specific to the movie, but there are many parallels. It is up to us, with God’s help, to find the meaning in them.
Turner & Hooch is a film that I had been dancing around for some days now on Disney+. You would think that most, if not all, of what the streaming service has to offer would be acceptable to any audience. Then again, you can now watch the ultra-violent Punisher (2017-2019) series on it, so there goes that notion. While Turner & Hooch is not nearly on the same level as the Marvel offerings, there is still some material in it that I would caution parents on thinking that this is a simple dog movie. Kids will probably not like seeing Hooch’s fate, never mind the sexual innuendo between Emily and Scott. As such, I will not be recommending this one, and will probably forget it within weeks.