MOVIE REVIEW | Turner and Hooch (1989)


“No barking, now growling, you will not lift your leg to anything in this house. This is not your room. No slobbering, no chewing, you will wear a flea collar. This is not your room. No begging for food, no sniffing of crotches, and you will not drink from my toilet.”

When I wrote about Stakeout, I wrote about it being a certain kind of movie that was huge in the 80s but doesn’t really exist today. It’s an adult movie in that its story has nothing kids would really be interested in, but it never goes too far with sex or violence. And it keeps a focus on fun and silly. When I was watching Turner and Hooch with my 64 year old dad, he sang that movie’s praises for basically the same reasons. I don’t know if that solidifies my theory about these 80s silly movies for adults, or if it means I have lame, old man sensibilities.  Either way, 25 years after everyone else saw it, I watched Turner and Hooch and it was awesome.

Scott Turner (Tom Hanks) is a cop in a small, Californian beach town. He’s a fastidious, bordering on obsessive, cop who meticulously organises every aspect of his life.  In his last week before moving to the big city of Sacramento to tackle real crime, he’s training his replacement David (Reginald ValJohnson, AKA Carl Winslow from Family Matters), teaching him the ins and outs of policing in a small town where everyone knows everyone. Including Amos (John McIntyre), a salty old kook who lives in a decrepit, old boat and constantly bugs the police with complaints and suspicions.

When Amos is murdered, Turner realises there might be some substance to one of those suspicions and begins to investigate.  The problem is, the only witness to the murder was Amos’ dog, a giant, bear-like bundle of filth, slobber and bad manners, named Hooch. Will Hooch infuriate Turner before teaching him a few things about life and even help him find love with the local vet? You bet. Will there be slightly jarring action towards the end as the police investigation side of the story gets wrapped up in typically 80s fashion? Damn straight.

The plot is kind of ridiculous, the machinations that lead to the uptight Turner being stuck with the filthy Hooch is somehow convoluted in its corny simplicity, and every story beat is telegraphed from a mile away. But here’s the thing, Tom Hanks is a super funny actor and improviser.  And Hooch is an amazing specimen that manages to add more laughs than a dog ever should be able to.

Turner and Hooch was a massive hit when it came out 25 years ago. Its trailer was on TV so often, those key scenes have been burned in my memory so deeply, that a lot of them seemed like I’d just watched the movie yesterday. This was the ascent of Tom Hanks, as he turned fun little comedies, like this and Big, into massive box office success.  This was before Hollywood knew he would become the A-list, Oscar winning dramatic Actor of the 90s.  I enjoy Hanks as a dramatic actor, he’s one of the best out there.  But watching Turner and Hooch made me miss the silly Tom Hanks.

Turner and Hooch
Directed By – Roger Spottiswoode
Written By – Dennis Shryack, Michael Blodgett, Daniel Petrie Jr., Jim Cash, Jack Epps Jr.

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