The Movie **1/2
Coming ten years after the "king of the killer dog movies", Cujo, was released, Man's Best Friend came to us with the promise of being a newer, hipper Cujo. In some ways it succeeds and in others it fails.
The Story: The movie stars Ally Sheedy as a reporter who needs a hit story. She decides to break into a research facility known as Emax and expose the company for testing chemicals on animals.
While at Emax, she finds a dog named Max and saves him from the facility. Max is not your ordinary dog. Dr. Jarret (Lance Henriksen) has spliced the DNA of a variety of different animals to make Max into a superior guard dog. But time is running out as Jarret tries to get his dog back before he becomes unstable.
The Skinny: The first thing that I noticed about Man's Best Friend is the constant change in it's tone. Sometimes the movie wants to be a horror movie and then sometimes it wants to be farcical. There are scenes that seem like they are played for laughs, but the tone is wrong.
For example, there is a scene in the movie where Max chases a female dog through the house. Max clearly wants to mate with this dog, but the female dog wants nothing of it. She runs through the house terrified and when Max reaches her, we cut to a shot of the house from the outside with the female dog howling in pain heard. This is supposed to get a laugh-"Puppy Love" plays over the scene- but to me it played out like a rape scene. Max raped that female dog and we are supposed to think that it is cute. It isn't.
There are other scenes that do get laughs, even when they aren't warranted. A scene that gets a huge laugh is the scene where Max chases a cat up a tree and then eats the cat whole. The way the scene is shot adds to the theory that this scene wasn't supposed to be funny.
Another scene is where Sheedy's boyfriend tries to kill Max by putting poison into some meat and then feeding it to Max. Max smells the poison and the attacks the boyfriend. When Max is done giving chase, he flushes the poison meat down the toilet. The image and the thought of the dog flushing something that was meant to kill him made me laugh pretty hard.
For a horror movie, Man's Best Friend is relatively gore-less. There are a few scenes where we see the aftermath of one of Max's attacks and we see Max get burnt, but every time Max goes for the kill, the director cuts away. It seems that the director wanted a PG-13 rating.
Max, being a genetically altered dog, is pretty smart. After he kills the mailman, Max buries the body under the house. He can open doors and he is really fast too. He would be a great dog guard if it wasn't for his killer instinct.
The bottom line here is that Man's Best Friend could have been an awesome "killer dog" movie. Given the premise and the presence of Lance Henriksen, the movie could have been great. But with the director shying away from the gore and the shifting tones, the movie is merely a "killer dog" movie with some really funny scenes. Maybe one day we will get a really good "killer dog" movie like Cujo. I hope.