The first movie about the famous golden mutt. Benji is a stray who has nonetheless worked his way into the hearts of a number of the townspeople, who give him food and attention whenever he stops by. His particular favorites are a pair of children who feed and play with him against the wishes of their parents. When the children are kidnapped, however, the parents and the police are at a loss to find them. Only Benji can track them down, but will he be in time? If he can save the day, he may just find the permanent home he's been longing for.Written by
Jean-Marc Rocher <email@example.com>
Joe Camp probably had no idea this family film about an independent mutt turning neighborhood hero was going to touch off such a reaction at the box-office. "Benji" doesn't have the earmarks of an ambitious movie, nor did its initial publicity suggest it was going to be anything more than a matinée flash-in-the-pan, but positive word-of-mouth amongst kids was incredibly high, and "Benji" became the fifth highest grossing film of 1974 (no small feat; it's just behind "The Godfather Part II"). Although the slim plot pilfers heavily from Disney's "That Darn Cat!", the canine star Higgins (from TV's "Petticoat Junction") is an amazing find: his expressions and reactions are priceless, and the film's narrative--Benji's escapades, his human friends, his romance with a little white pooch--proved to be immediate and bracing with the target audience. Charlie Rich's song "I Feel Love" was Oscar-nominated (!), underlining the doggy romance with uplifting sentiment, the kind that makes a crowd-pleaser. Followed in 1977 by "For the Love of Benji"; but, with a different, look-alike dog and a hoked-up story, the sequel didn't crossover to older children. **1/2 from ****
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