Thursday, March 2, 2017

Reserved Seating: Turner & Hooch vs. K-9

by Rob DiCristino and Adam Riske
The review duo that stays current and topical. Spoiler warning.

Rob: Welcome to Reserved Seating. I’m Rob DiCristino.

Adam: And I’m Adam Riske. On this week’s episode, Rob and I settle the debate that has divided this country since 1989: is Turner & Hooch or K-9 the better film? We break each picture down into eight segments on this special episode of Reserved Seating that you can probably skip because you already know the answer. Let’s start with the action.

Rob: Both Turner & Hooch and K-9 have gritty crime plots centered on smuggling and drugs.

Adam: I thought both movies became needlessly dark. You got a cop comedy with a dog. Of course you’re going to attract kids. Do they need to see people being blown away? On the flip side, what does an action fan want with a Tom Hanks or James Belushi actioner when they could go elsewhere and get the goods? My vote for the better action is probably K-9. Neither film works in its action sequences, but the ones in K-9 are staged with a little more proficiency.

Rob: Now that I think about it, I’m going to agree with you. The action is a bit better motivated and staged in K-9, despite the fact that everything happening around it is off-putting and terrible. The darker tonal shifts you mentioned were also way more jarring in Turner & Hooch. Is that a point for K-9? Are we doing points?

Adam: Yes, we’re doing points. Glad you talked to our producer before the show. Hi Sally!

(Sally waves)

Rob: Sally isn’t talking to me. Hi, Sally!

(Sally does not wave. In fact, Sally pretends to wave and then demonstrably retracts the wave with spite.)

Rob: See? What’s the next category?
Adam: The comedy. Because what is an action comedy without jokes? Tom Hanks is a national treasure and can make a wonky picture like Turner & Hooch at least watchable. James Belushi couldn’t sell a joke if he had a gun to his head. We laugh with Hanks because we like Hanks. We cringe at Belushi because he represents unearned bravado with every breath out of his pig fuck body. Point to Turner & Hooch!

Rob: Hang on just a second. I just want to be clear: James Belushi is the fucking worst. I hated him in this movie. I hated how much leeway he was given to do and say things, and I hated that the movie wanted us to laugh at them. Tom Hanks is the best because he’s charming, intuitive, and he has great timing. Belushi saunters around and expects us to revel in his presence. Like it’s a gift or something. Like we should say “thank you.” He’s the worst. With that said, the jokes in Turner & Hooch work better because they’re more character-motivated. They give us those little heart tingles. K-9 is full of assholes who give us indigestion.

Adam: I think we effectively covered our next category: lead actor. I’ll just add that I don’t always hate James Belushi in movies. I just despise him the most in K-9.

Rob: Because he’s so douchey! The character is the most cynical, irredeemable version of the '80s action lead. I can’t stress how much that annoyed me. Even if I wasn’t comparing him to Tom fucking Hanks, I’d still be angry. The movie assumes this ethos with its hero, like he’s the Born to Lose Every Man we’re all supposed to sympathize with. But he deserves every bad thing that happens to him, and I don’t sympathize with him at all. Anyone who does is terrible.
Adam: Hanks also has a slight but nice arc where he learns to let go a little bit and stop being so controlling. He’s literally shown reading a book about being a loner (or solitude or something) in the opening credits sequence and then he opens up a bit with the dog over time. In K-9, the adorable German Shepherd (named Jerry Lee) saves Belushi’s dough ass time and time again and he can’t even be appreciative without also be an unconscionable asshole two seconds later. I say let’s veto the points and just make this a free-for-all from here on out. I need to vent and categorization doesn’t make that easier. Bottom line: Turner & Hooch is a two star movie but looks like Moonlight compared to K-9.

Rob: I do want to point out that while you’re right about Hanks’ character, I was confused by how much shouting he did. It seemed like a weird character choice for Turner, as if he was sort of bouncing back and forth between personas depending on the take or the scene. Neat, organized recluse or crazy shouting Tom Hanks guy? Both, apparently. It works because we love Hanks, but it would be weird if it were anyone else.

Adam: That didn’t bother me. I just read it as him being frustrated. There are a few other things I want to make sure we cover and one is the romantic subplots in both films. I found myself sort of surprised how charming the one is in Turner & Hooch. There are two adults, they don’t play games with each other, they’re having fun falling in love and they seem like a genuinely appealing couple. It’s my favorite part of both movies. Whereas in K-9...I have to question Mel Harris’ sanity for dating a narcissist like Belushi.

Rob: Yeah, Turner & Hooch’s romantic subplot works so much better because Mare Winningham’s character is a character. There are stakes in that relationship. They rely on each other and have mutual respect. Their chemistry builds to that finale when they’re bickering with each other in that cute way you only see in movies, the way where you know everything is actually okay. I didn’t want Belushi to have anything nice in K-9 as it was, but the love story is another example of the movie’s initial thesis bothering me. Their relationship -- from the very beginning -- seems to be built on...spite? I think? I don’t like them. THEY don’t even seem to like them.

Adam: Okay, now let’s get the big ones: the dogs and how they are treated in the films’ endings. I had a tough time with both dogs getting shot at the end of the movie. It felt mean-spirited and like the screenwriters couldn’t think of a way to tell a story about a dog cop without resorting to shooting them. I liked both dogs’ “performances” in the films (it was the only thing I enjoyed about K-9), but there’s a scene in K-9 that made me so angry. It’s the scene where Belushi puts the dog through a car wash. When that scene happened I was stunned. It’s beyond evil. The fact that it was played as a comedic beat (to the song “Car Wash”) makes me think that even if things are the way they are in 2017, at least they aren’t the way they were in 1989 where shit like this could slide.

Rob: Again, the movie is super mean-spirited! I know that a lot of people draw a line in the sand when it comes to dogs being hurt in movies, and I totally get it. I’m just not one of those people. But I totally agree that K-9 crosses the line in really weird ways that -- and I’ll repeat this for the last time -- shows us how crass and gross the movie is. Hooch is smart and charismatic, and he’s given an opportunity to play a real role that fits the fun tone of the rest of the film. That whole stake-out is the best thing in both movies. It endears us to them both individually and to their relationship.

Adam: I’m not proud of this, but that stake-out scene led me to watching an episode of Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp on YouTube. It’s very funny for about five minutes. What an insane show.

Rob: I’m Googling Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp. Give me a minute.
Adam: Question for you: do you miss funny Hanks? I wish he went back to comedies for a little while. His dramas of late are of lesser quality than the ones from his prime-drama period from 1992 to about 2004-ish.

Rob: *Over chimp noises* Why was this allowed to happen? Anyway, I was actually thinking that Turner reminded me of Mr. White in That Thing You Do!, another balance of his dramatic and comedic with a bit of an edge. But I think at this point Hanks is on autopilot. I’m sure he’s seeing some of his peers attempt comedy later in their careers and deciding he’s better off reclining in the safety of Dan Brown adaptations. I definitely miss his comedic side, but I wonder if he’s even being offered those roles anymore.

Adam: It’s interesting you should say that about Hanks not being offered comedic roles anymore. It’s a conversation I’ve had with other people before and I wanted to get your take on it. I think actors, later in their careers, care a lot less about their legacy than their fans do. I bet many of them just enjoy working and choose movies based more on what’s available, who’s working on the movie, where it’s shooting and the pay.

Rob: Agreed. I think we retain what our favorite actors’ key performances mean to us and let that overtake our understanding of them as human beings. It’s like when people on Twitter tell celebrities and athletes they shouldn’t talk about politics. They’re only seeing that person for what they mean to them, which is super selfish and reductive. So while I do wish Robert De Niro would make better choices, I also understand that the performances I like don’t disappear just because he made Dirty Grandpa. Same with Hanks. They worked hard. They should get to make whatever they want.

Adam: Well said. We didn’t fight this episode. How about that? Anyways, would you recommend our viewers revisit Turner & Hooch? I’m going to say no, but if you chapter skip on the DVD, you’ll find some decent Hanks moments.
Rob: I think we need all the positivity we can get. One more question for you. Better supporting role played by dad actor: Ed O’Neill or Craig T. Nelson?

Adam: Umm...Ed O’Neill I guess is better in his one scene, but my heart says Craig T. Nelson because I love how absurd his character is. Didn’t he say his cut of the money (for allowing criminals to launder cash) was, like, one percent? Seems like an awful fucking deal.

Rob: The 1980s were full of bad decisions. Now, Craig T. Nelson or Reginald VelJohnson? And then we’ll stop.

Adam: Reginald VelJohnson could play Jack the Ripper and I would still want to hug him. Good episode, Rob! We cut deep and I’m glad we jettisoned K-9 early. Tell the viewers what we’re reviewing next.

Rob: We’re going to see My Girlfriend Anna Kendrick be woefully underserved by Table 19! I can’t tell if she’s hurting me on purpose or someone is hurting her. Either way, I’m going to stop it.

Adam: Did you read her book yet?

Rob: Not yet. I’m holding out hope that I can get her to read it to me one day.

Adam: You should call her. I’m going to call Felicity Jones to see if she wants to go to Table 19 with me. I have a $15 DQ gift card so, you know, value add.

Rob: So what you’re saying is that we’re both eating DQ that night after we inevitably strike out?

Adam: I said it last night and I’ll say it again: Felicity Jones looks like a Riske. I just need to make her one.

Rob: No day but today, Adam. No day but today.

Adam: Marriages are built on hope. Until next time…

Rob: These seats are reserved.


  1. anna kendrick is my girlfriend. i,ll fight you.

    K-9 or T&H. the eternal struggle. i'll have to rewatch them. the last movie i saw that contained a companion dog was Kuffs (yes, the dog has limited screentime, but i still count it), so isn't exactly a fair fight.

  2. There goes an afternoon dedicated to Lancelot Link. What the...

  3. Haha, I love how you just threw out the point system and just shat on K-9 from the halfway mark.

    I get it that some actors seem to care less later in their career. I mean, they've made bank, are very comfortable, and it's not surprising that their choice in roles change (even if their choices are sometimes surprising to us, ie. De Niro).

    Even if he's not the same comedic Hanks of the 80's I still think he's brilliant in many of movies he's done recently. I really liked Captain Phillips, Bridge of Spies and I haven't seen it, but I understand he is good is Cloud Atlas too.