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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that For the Love of Benji (made in 1977) was the first sequel in the very popular Benji (1974) franchise. In this adventure, Benji is still a part of his almost-intact original family established in the first movie -- two kids and their nanny -- and he's with Tiffany, his sweet pup girlfriend. They're all on their way to a vacation in Greece when a missed flight separates the lovable pooch from the others. The story finds Benji in jeopardy in multiple sequences. He's chased by villains on foot and in cars, shot at, chloroformed, and dognapped. Emphasis, however, is on the charm of the dog on his own in the big, foreign city surviving by his wits. The film is in English, and the occasional scenes that involve non-English-speaking characters aren't subtitled. It works because the gist of the conversations is clear. Though rated G by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) in 1974, it's only appropriate for kids who clearly understand the difference between real and imaginary action, because Benji's numerous brushes with danger may be disturbing.
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What's the story?
What was supposed to be a wonderful family vacation turns into a funny, enchanting, and sometimes scary adventure in FOR THE LOVE OF BENJI. The title dog (played by Benji), an irrepressible hero, gets lost in Athens, Greece, after an airport connection goes awry. And it isn't simply that he's lost. Benji doesn't know it, but he's "carrying" some critical information that has been planted on him by a very suspicious-looking traveler. The majority of the film consists of Benji on his own, roaming the streets and landmarks of Athens, hoping to find his people and forced to outwit the bad guys, who desperately want the information he unwittingly holds. Lengthy, heartwarming, and sometimes suspenseful sequences are intercut with brief scenes of his family and assorted villains on the move. Narrow escapes and close calls are the order of the day.
Is it any good?
Irresistible scenes of the smart and sweet pup, shot and edited with panache, make this 1977 sequel a delight, despite the ludicrous plot and nasty scoundrels who threaten with guns. For the Love of Benji would be repetitious -- how many times can one determined dog escape the danger that awaits him at every turn -- if weren't so funny and inventive, and if each obstacle didn't lead Benji to more charming moments in picturesque Athens. Hearts will melt; tears may flow when all's well that ends well.
Director-writer Joe Camp makes the most of Benji's adorableness. Scenes of the pooch making friends with another stray and his bone, scoring sausages from an outdoor food bazaar, and outwitting an international thief should appeal to new fans and gratify their parents -- even grandparents -- who made the movie a hit decades ago. For the Love of Benji actually holds up better than its predecessor, and it isn't necessary to have seen the earlier film. Great for kids who are comfortable with heroes who have to run for their lives (both human and canine).
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how MPAA ratings have changed over the years. For the Love of Benji got a G rating when it was first released in 1977. How do you think it would be rated today? What events or situations would most likely change the designation?
What is a musical score? Think about the music in this film, especially in sequences during which Benji is on his own. Do you think Benji's adventure would have been as clear and as meaningful without the musical score to heighten the emotions the filmmakers wanted to evoke?
- In theaters: June 10, 1977
- On DVD or streaming: February 6, 1999
- Cast: Patsy Garrett, Ed Nelson, Cynthia Smith
- Director: Joe Camp
- Studio: Mulberry Square Releasing
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Adventures, Cats, Dogs, and Mice, Friendship
- Character strengths: Courage, Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 85 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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