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Movie Info




Aug. 20, 2004


Drama, Family


Lincoln Hoppe, Benji, Nick Whitaker, Chris Kendrick, Randall Newsome


Joe Camp


Joe Camp, Margaret Loesch


Mulberry Square Releasing


Please Note

In providing movie reviews on our site, is not endorsing or recommending films we review. Our goal is to provide Christians with information about the latest movies, both the good and the bad, so that our readers may make an informed decision as to whether or not films are appropriate for them and their families.


Benji: Off the Leash

By Phil Boatwright
The Movie Reporter - A young boy's abusive father runs a puppy mill in the backyard. And if a dog isn't going to make him any money, its fate is a sad one. But his son has compassion for the animals and hides an unwanted puppy in an abandoned shack in the woods. When the canine cutie grows up, it becomes friends with another orphaned pooch. Together they struggle to save her mom from the bad man while trying to avoid a pair of bungling dogcatchers.

This is a wonderful film for little ones as it is full of adventure, yet is mild tempered. The canine cast is irresistible (indeed, expect the first question once you leave the theater to be, "Can we get a puppy?"). The main two dogs in this film are acting. They have great expressions and a smart look that endears them to even the most cynical of moviegoers. Certainly not in the league of My Dog Skip, or Lassie Come Home, or even the original Benji, but this sequel (the first Benji film in 16 years) should satisfy 4- to 10-year-olds. And though adults may be a bit bored with the slapstick antics of the film's comic sidekicks, I think parents will be pleased at the response of their littlest kids.

Rating: PG -- This is a clean, heartfelt film, but one element concerned me. The boy's father is portrayed as unloving, threatening, and unrepentive. We later see evidence that he has struck his wife. This may unnerve tots. Mom or dad should be there to reassure their offspring of their love.

A word about Joe Camp, the man behind Benji. Along with writing, producing and directing the Benji movies, Camp spends a great deal of his time working with the Piney Woods Country Life School in Mississippi. This black boarding school educates mostly high-risk kids from families below the poverty level, yet sends nearly 100% of its graduates to college, often on full scholarship. Looking at his films and writings, it is clear that his purpose is to inspire those who might stop short of their potential. His book, "Benji & Me," chronicled the difficulties experienced in trying to get the first Benji movie off the ground and instills the faith that anyone can make a difference in this world.

The latest Benji -- a 3 1/2-year-old female -- is the fourth dog to play the character. The new Benji was adopted in the fall of 2001 from the Humane Society of Southern Mississippi after a nationwide search of animal shelters. Set in Mississippi, it's the fourth film based on a character created in 1974 by Joe Camp.

Phil Boatwright is the editor of The Movie Reporter. Review used by permission. Go to Phil Boatwright's website at for details on how to have reviews of new films delivered directly to your e-mail address.

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