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Sherlock: Undercover Dog
(1994)
 

Director: Richard Harding Gardner     
Cast:
Benjamin Eron, Brynne Cameron, Anthony Simmons


I know, I know - you are thinking, "Why?" Why on earth would I review a movie with a title like Sherlock: Undercover Dog? After all, there are unquestionably movies that, from the title and the art on the video box, you know immediately will be painful to watch. And I did know that this movie was going to hurt very much. You probably were also thinking, "I wouldn't watch a movie like that if I was paid!" Well, The Unknown Movies is different than other web pages; not only will I occasionally review movies that are obviously from Stink City even before putting them in the VCR, but I will especially do so if I'm paid good money. No, I wasn't bribed by anyone associated with the making or distribution of this family film - a freelance reviewing assignment had me review this among the other movies I was assigned, and watching it got me another 23 Canadian dollars. That's enough to buy a decent bottle of booze up here, and though I'm not really a drinking man, I really felt like taking a walk to the liquor store after watching this movie.

Where to start with this movie? How about the video box. On the back it says it is rated "K - Kids must be present when viewed by a grown-up!" After watching this movie, I would say that's because the producers were afraid that parents would fall asleep while watching this movie, and a kid would be there to wake them up. For one thing, there's a dreary musical score that sounds like it came from an outdoor montage sequence from the TV show Full House. However, I think there's more of a chance adults will stay awake, only because their groans of contempt and disgust will be keeping themselves awake.

Just look at what happens in the first ten minutes: Billy, a boy about ten years old, is on the ferry between California and Catalina with his mother and his (I assume) stepfather. A tame white rat has gotten aboard the ferry, and once it makes its presence known, 99% of the passengers on the ferry shriek and run around the ferry into the control room, causing the ferry to violently steer side to side. Meanwhile, Billy's real father prepares to meet his son on the docks. Since he's an inventor and in a children's film, he, of course, has glasses, sloppy hair, and ill-fitting out-of-fashion clothes. Are you groaning yet? If not, you probably will when you're told that the golf cart he uses to putt around the island goes off before he's ready, dragging him behind as it speeds down the hill. (The footage here is sped up, and it's obvious it was sped up in the editing room after the footage was transferred onto a video master, making it look even cheesier.) Of course, when the cart stops, it's right on the foot of a cop, and this is the first of many sequences in the movie where the same cop gets his foot run over by a golf cart. We find out that the ferry managed to successfully dock despite its wild ride, but not without consequences - as the camera slowly pans up from the water to a docking ramp, we hear retching noises while we see chunks of vomit splash down onto the water.

As I said, all this happens in just the first ten minutes. Oh, I left out the part about the Scottish detective at the docks with his dog. The dog's name is - brace yourself  - "Sherlock Bones". (AAARRRGGGGHHH!) It's one ugly dog, with its eye patch and rotting red bandana around its neck, and he looks like he needs a good bath. Oh, why is a detective from Scotland doing all the way out here in Catalina? Well, he's investigating some drug smuggling going on there, though why he traveled all the way here for a local problem is not answered. Neither is why he didn't inform the island authorities that he was there on a case, though maybe it is so it makes it easier for the smugglers, once they find out about him, to kidnap him, and keep him tied up hostage in their bases of operation. (These are kinder, gentler drug smugglers, folks.)

Reunited, Billy and his dimwitted father drive home, and during the journey they discover Sherlock lying beside the road, injured during his escape from the drug smugglers. They take him to the local vet, and there we are introduced to her daughter Emma, who is about the same age as Billy. Emma's first words, said as she rushes into the veterinarian clinic, are, "Mom! Mom! It was so gross! There's vomit everywhere! They had to hose down the entire dock!" (Later she brags to Billy and his father, "I'm illegitimate - neat, huh?") Back to the story. While Billy is alone with Sherlock, Billy discovers that Sherlock can talk! Sherlock never explains here or anywhere else in the movie just how he can talk and have intelligence greater than any of the people on Catalina, but that's not the concern now. He is concerned about his kidnapped policeman master, and enlists Billy's help. Actually, he doesn't seem to be that concerned about his master being in such danger, because he'll only speak to Billy (and later Emma), leading to countless scenes where Billy tries to tell people Sherlock can talk but Sherlock stays silent and everyone thinks Billy has gone insane or is being irresponsible and oh must I go on? It's never made really clear who Sherlock will only speak with children, though it may be that if he talked to the adults, his master would be saved and the movie would be finished in less than five minutes.

I don't think it's necessary for me to tell you what the acting or directing is like in this movie. If I were pressed into finer detail, I would find it very difficult. Looking back at my notes, I find random scribblings from a madman. What I can make out is the following: "...Sherlock on leash dragging Billy across floor - see visible cables pulling dog...", "...Billy dressed in a bikini...", "...Sherlock urinating on a 'No Dogs Allowed' sign", "...Father walking up to talk to woman watering with hose. She turns quickly and guess what...", "Strange title for a movie when dog actually minor character", and "Will this movie ever end?" It did, but it was the longest 80 minutes I've been through for a long time. I realize that what I've written about this movie may make it sound like it's one of those so-bad-it's-good movie, but believe me, it is just bad. Not just bad in its quality, but quite reprehensible in its content when you consider its target audience.

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See also: Rivals, Secret Agent Club, Star Kid

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