There’s almost something admirable about “You Lucky Dog,” if only in its unabashed willingness to relentlessly keep throwing family-movie cliches at the screen, feebly hoping one of them will stick. Instead, what emerges from the hash is a laughable mix of “save the farm” melodrama with a bit of “Babe” thrown in — a movie less written than cut and pasted. It’s never a good sign when a border collie delivers the only semi-believable performance.
Lisa Rayborn (Natasha Henstridge) comes home to the family farm from New York for her mother’s funeral. But the business is struggling, and while her brother (Harry Hamlin, in real life more than 20 years her senior) has begun raising sheep to help pay the bills, her father (Lawrence Dane) resents any new-fangled break with tradition.
Eager to pitch in, Lisa picks up a discarded border collie to assist in herding the sheep, but both her dad and brother react with surprising (as in poorly motivated and over-acted) hostility toward the idea. Still, Lisa persists, and the pooch she christens Lucky turns out to be a find and then some, not just picking up the sheepherding trade with breathtaking alacrity but also rescuing kids from a sudden storm/forest fire. Hey, it worked for “Mighty Joe Young.”
Indeed, in just 90 minutes or so minus commercials, Lisa must save the farm, reconnect with her family, fall for a handsome vet (Anthony Lemke), participate in the aforementioned rescue and train for a sheepherding contest — all while leaving enough time to throw in what looks like gratuitous product-placement for Pedigree dog food.
Given Hallmark’s warm-and-fuzzy niche, it’s hard on paper to go wrong with a heroic dog — and Lord knows, the device has worked for everything from “Old Yeller” to “Marley and Me.” Still, for all her astounding canine talents, even Lucky can’t herd the latest addition to the channel’s woolly flock back from the precipice of unintended camp.