Review: ‘Man’s Best Friend’

New Line trots out a potential new horror franchise with "Man's Best Friend," story of a genetically engineered guard dog on the loose. It should take a healthy nibble at the box office at first, but get quickly banished to the doghouse by onslaught of major holiday releases.

New Line trots out a potential new horror franchise with “Man’s Best Friend,” story of a genetically engineered guard dog on the loose. It should take a healthy nibble at the box office at first, but get quickly banished to the doghouse by onslaught of major holiday releases.

Chief problem is that Max the dog — a Tibetan mastiff — is easily the most likable character in the movie. Ally Sheedy plays an airhead lifestyle reporter looking for a “real” story. When her source at the animal research lab inconveniently disappears, she breaks in to get the story on her own.

In liberating Max and taking him home, not once does Sheedy’s character wonder if the dog is unhealthy, much less dangerous. Her attitude is matched by the incompetence of the police (Robert Constanzo, John Cassini), who are unable to locate the killer dog.

Lance Henriksen’s scientist offers the best bet for a sympathetic character since he is the one who has been wronged, but he eventually emerges as a modern “mad scientist” who is willing to expend animal — and human — lives for what he considers a worthy cause.

Large chunk of the running time is spent waiting for Max’s sedative to wear off so that he can start wreaking havoc. Violence is brief but notable, including the beast’s swallowing a cat whole and urinating acid in the face of Sheedy’s b.f. (Fredric Lehne). Although much of the violence is depicted with special effects, animal trainer Clint Rowe (credited with “Max’s behavior”) coaxes the film’s best performance from the dog.

Sequel is set up by killing nearly every character in the film and having Max leave behind a litter of puppies. As with most shaggy dog stories, it’ll be hard to stop.

Man's Best Friend

Production

A New Line Cinema release of a Roven-Cavello Entertainment production. Produced by Bob Engelman. Executive producer, Robert Kosberg, Daniel Grodnick. Directed, written by John Lafia.

Crew

Camera (Deluxe color; Film House prints), Mark Irwin; editor, Michael N. Knue; music, Joel Goldsmith; production design, Jaymes Hinkle; art direction, Erik Olson; set design, Sharon E. Alshams; set decoration , Ellen Totlebren; costume design, Beverly Hong; sound (Dolby), Steve Nelson; animal trainer, Clint Rowe; special makeup effects, Kevin Yagher; associate producer, Kelley Smith; assistant director, Benita Allen; casting, Valorie Massalas. Reviewed at Loews Cinema 57, Boston, Nov. 19, 1993. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 87 min.

With

Lori Tanner - Ally Sheedy
Dr. Jarret - Lance Henriksen
Detective Kovacs - Robert Constanzo
Perry - Fredric Lehne
Detective Bendetti - John Cassini
Rudy - J.D. Daniels
Ray - William Sanderson
Annie - Trula M. Marcus

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