In the world of police procedurals, the ‘buddy cop’ routine is fairly established. We’ve seen it before with films like “Rush Hour” and “Cop and a Half.” However, the 1989 film “Turner & Hooch” takes a different take on the genre, establishing as a cop’s buddy not a kid or a hardened officer, but rather a dog. The film would star Tom Hanks, a film squeezed in between “Big” and “Joe vs. the Volcano,” and celebrates that loud, manic, losing his temper Hanks that was so funny in “The Money Pit.”
The plot of the film is fairly straightforward: a man who lives by the docks in a hamlet in California (John McIntire) is murdered by some shady men in a undercover money laundering ring, and the man’s dog, Hooch, is the only witness to the crime. While investigating the murder, Turner (Hanks) and his partner, David, (the venerable Reginald VelJohnson) soon realize the dog is their only link to the crime. Turner intervenes when a pair of dog catchers – unable to control the animal – threaten to shoot it. Hooch soon becomes intwined in Turner’s life – for better or worse.
“Turner & Hooch” is funny because we’ve already seen what kind of man Turner is. He’s a meticulous cleaner, a borderline OCD case that cleans his whole refrigerator on a whim and uses a dust buster to vacuum crumbs off David’s pants while driving. Bringing a enormous, slobbering dog into his house is the last thing he wants – and it happens with decidedly mixed results.
“Hooch” is directed by Roger Spottiswide, who helmed early ‘90s films such as “Stop or my Mom Will Shoot” and “Air America.” But this film has heart, a testament to Spottiswide’s emotional ability that runs through his poignant and focused T.V film “And the Band Played On,” about the A.I.D.S epidemic in the 1980’s. With “Hooch,” he blends the elements of humor and emotion in the right places.
Hanks is hysterical as Turner, and scenes of him and Hooch ‘bonding’ throughout are laugh out loud funny and sometimes painful. “This is your room,” Turner instructs Hooch as he locks him in the garage. Hooch responds by breaking through the door while Turner’s at work and turns his house into a junkyard. Hanks’ mania shines throughout a scene that shows him first borderline weeping at the damage and then escalating into hysterical anger as he threatens Hooch, “I’m going to get my gun!”
Some other players find their way into the story, most notable a criminal type named Boyette (J.C. Quinn) and a love interest for Tuner, played sweetly by Mare Winningham. Boyette is painted rather thin, as his character arc and reveal don’t become apparent until much later, and he’s given virtually no scenes to cement him as a serious villain. Winningham, however, is a high point of the film, a town veterinarian who refuses to take Hooch in as her own, but helps Turner make the right decision. Her and Hanks display a decent amount of chemistry here and have a number of nice scenes together.
A detective story at heart, “Hooch” is also written well (written by a staggering 7 writers), and involves viewers as it attempts to solve its murder mystery. The story is rather straightforward, as we know who the killer is, but it’s about Turner finding out – Hooch helping him in the process – that makes the film worth watching. The growth between Hooch and Turner is also well done, and makes for a believable transition. In the film’s best sequence, Turner talks to Hooch about how close they are getting to solving the case, but then takes time to notice that Hooch is still sad about his owner’s death. While Tuner is always perceptive at work, it’s the first time he uses the skill to bond with Hooch; and the scene comes off even warmer in Hanks’ hands.
“Hooch” also has a good deal of action, between the film’s sinister opening to it’s exciting close (not to be hinted at here). It’s action sequences, when they occur, are suspenseful, though with a PG rating the movie doesn’t make the events more frightful than they have to be.
All in all, “Turner & Hooch” is a fun movie that the family can enjoy while also being engaging enough to please lovers of detective standards or buddy cop films. It’s predictable but sweet, well acted, and fun throughout. A solid effort by Hanks and company.
– by Mark Ziobro