Karate Dog (2004)
Pooch film is doggone terrific
Move over Jackie Chan. Step aside Jet Li. Shave off that beard Chuck Norris. There is a new king of karate on the silver screen. He’s less than four foot tall, full of personality, and is covered in hair. No, I’m not talking about Danny DeVito! I’m referring to Cho-Cho, star of Karate Dog.
Karate Dog boasts one of the most impressive casts ever assembled. Oscar winner Jon Voight (Midnight Cowboy, Deliverance), Emmy winner Jaime Pressly (“My Name is Earl”) and Pat Morita (Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid), who once won $30 playing Three Card Monte, certainly make for an formidable ensemble. Then you add the voice of legendary funnyman Chevy Case as Cho-Cho the dog (oh, yes – he doesn’t just know karate, he talks!), and you’ve got yourself a film for the ages.
As the film begins, an elderly man named Chin Li (Morita) is confronted by a gang of masked assailants. Despite being north of 70, he fares quite well for himself. Go ahead and gather your friends together, put on some masks, and jump on the next senior citizen you spot. I bet they don’t fare half as well as Chin Li. As well as he does initially, he eventually dies, even after his dog Cho-Cho helps out with some fierce karate action. On second thought, ignore that advice about attacking the elderly, even if they have a dog with them.
The murderer is revealed to be Hamilton Cage (Voight), a former martial arts protégé of Chin’s. Cho-Cho then befriends a police detective named Peter Fowler, who he feels can help put Cage behind bars. At the same time, Cho-Cho helps the painfully awkward Fowler in his budding relationship with a fellow officer (Pressly). This leads to a laugh out loud take off on the classic Cyrano de Bergerac.
But this film is not just about zany shenanigans. There is a real important problem being dealt with in this film – dog steroids. Hamilton Cage’s company has developed a performance enhancing drug that he is using to fix dog races. It’s nice to see someone tackling this issue. Everyone is quick to point their finger at Roger Clemens and Mark McGwire. Maybe we should be taking a look in the direction of Uno the beagle, winner of this year’s Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.
Now I’m no fan of canines. I have long petitioned for chimpanzees to replace dogs as the world’s most popular pet. Yet just as has been the case with every Air Bud film, I was able to put my prejudice aside and enjoy the film. Instead of just walking around in circles and barking at squirrels like most dogs do, Cho-Cho speaks, drives cars, brushes his teeth, showers, and is a master martial artist. He’s such a good performer that at times I even forgot he was a dog.
Jon Voight has been nominated for four Academy Awards, and won one of them back in 1978. But I’m sure he’ll want to be remembered for his role as Hamilton Cage. Voight has made headlines over the last few years due to his estranged relationship with his daughter Angelina Jolie. It has never been confirmed what caused the rift between father and daughter, but after watching Karate Dog, I have no doubt that it is Jolie’s jealousy that is the root of the problem. Listen Angelina, I’m sure you wanted to be in this movie, likely in place of Jaime Pressly. Your career simply wasn’t hot enough at the time to even warrant an audition. Daddy Jon can’t be playing the nepotism card all the time, or else you’ll never amount to a damn thing in show business.
Just this past week, the summer blockbuster Kung Fu Panda was released on home video. Before you go out and purchase that film, I suggest you spend your money on the superior talking, karate executing animal flick, that being Karate Dog. The makers of this film didn’t have to rely on fancy computers to tell their story – they actually taught karate to a dog. Karate Dog lifts up its leg and urinates on the competition.