“He’s not just a dog. He’s a cop.” These words are spoken, with complete seriousness, at a dramatic moment in the new film K-9. They pretty much sums up the concept, although the movie generally has more of a sense of humor about it.

K-9 is the latest cop-buddy movie, the twist being that one half of the crime fighting team is a German shepherd. The other half is played by James Belushi, who has the unenviable task of trying to make this thing work.

Belushi’s a funny guy, but he can’t bring it off without some good support. There is none here. Oh, the dog, Jerry Lee, is fine, but the script is a connect-the-dots enterprise, and the director, Rod Daniel (Like Father, Like Son), can’t tell a joke to save his soul.

The story follows a predictable format. Belushi is reluctantly teamed up with the canine, one of those trained dogs able to sniff out hidden drugs. (The plot has something to do with brining down a big drug kingpin, although the story is so feebly told that it barely registers.)

Belushi and Jerry Lee have a personality clash at first; Jerry Lee elects to sit in the front seat of Belushi’s 1965 Mustang, and disdains the doggy deodorant Belushi picks out for him. But when Belushi gets caught in a sleazy bar by some ruffians, Jerry Lee comes to the rescue by snapping his fangs closed on the bad guy’s crotch. It’s the start of a beautiful friendship.

There are jokes about dog food (chili is preferred), dog flatulence, and dog sex. The latter involves a tete-a-tete between Jerry Lee and a white poodle, in the privacy of a Mercedes. Immediately after this encounter, Jerry Lee romps around to the strains of a James Brown song and heads off with Belushi into a San Diego sunset. He does everything but light up a Pall Mall.

There’s not much human sex, although Belushi is given a decorative girlfriend, in the form of Mel Harris, who plays Hope on “thirtysomething.” But the movie can’t work up much interest or affection for her, not with that scene-stealer Jerry Lee around; he has all the good lines.

First published in the Herald, April 1989



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