Benji the Hunted
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that an adult mom cougar is shot and killed in this wilderness tale; there are also some non-explicit animal fights, with a few casualties (mainly from a cliff fall). Be aware that there is very little dialogue or many human characters here; some kids may find this odd or need help understanding the story.
What's the story?
Benji, the expressive mutt of a series of hit family films, here plays himself -- the movie-superstar dog owned and trained by Frank Inns (a Santa Claus lookalike, by the way). As BENJI THE HUNTED opens, a heartbroken Inns is interviewed saying that when he and Benji were caught in a storm while fishing together off the Washington state coast, Benji was swept overboard and is now the object of a frantic search. Action switches to Benji's POV for the remainder: The small-but-big-hearted dog comes ashore at a forested region, where he witnesses a majestic cougar shot dead by a hunter. Next Benji finds the den of cute, orphaned little cougar cubs. Benji tries to feed, protect, and shelter the feline furballs, despite the same hunter now after Benji (for the reward money) and additional threats from a menacing wolf, a hungry eagle, and a blustery bear. While later, similar films blended smarty-pants actor voiceovers with slick CGI to create humanlike characters audiences could "relate to," animals here stay completely non-verbal.
Is it any good?
Benji the Hunted has Disney's ace production values and an entire ensemble of trained wilderness critters "acting" opposite the expressive Benji in a simple, tearjerkingly manipulative and yet shamelessly entertaining cross-species adventure. Although dated, it should hold kindergarten-and-up viewers especially transfixed -- even cynical grownup critics said that little Benji could out-act many homo sapiens.
Explore, discuss, enjoy
Families can talk about Benji's adoption of the cougar cubs and putting their safety ahead of his own. How would this story have been different with a human hero? Would it have been as good?
Discuss how the plot unreels nearly without dialogue or people (not even celebrity talking-animal voiceovers!). Ask young viewers if they had trouble comprehending the movie, or if they liked it better that way. Maybe Benji the Hunted can be a gateway to showing kids old silent-era films, which also relied on mime and unspoken communication.
Parents and kids who are nature-savvy might pick apart the oh-please
moments and inaccuracies, from the big ones (a cougar would be likely
to make a meal out of Benji on sight, sorry) to the more esoteric ones
(an owl, in reality a silent flier, here makes enough noise for a 747).
Parents and kids who are nature-savvy might pick apart the oh-please moments and inaccuracies, from the big ones (a cougar would be likely to make a meal out of Benji on sight, sorry) to the more esoteric ones (an owl, in reality a silent flier, here makes enough noise for a 747).