Writer: Ng Suzhen
"Can Frankenweenie have a treat?"
Wait, another dog-starring movie, you say? Not another one of those Chihuahuas yipping away in Beverly Hills or those secret agent cats and dogs nonsense, we hope. Well, the good news is "Frankenweenie" is no ordinary dog and truth be told, no canine that has appeared in movies have ever been anything but extraordinary. Over the years, no matter how much you roll your eyes at another clichéd attempt to present man's best friend in a warm and fuzzy light, the truth is, they tend to paw their way into your heart. Presented in black and white, the proverbial light on "Frankenweenie" may not be as warm and fuzzy, but one look at the pup Sparky, that was brought to life by his owner, Victor, and you are guaranteed to fall in love with him regardless of what mischief or terror it ensues. Along the years, many others much like Sparky have managed to spark fond memories for us, but there are some, like Sparky's terror-causing alter ego, that instils fear in our hearts as well.
Lassie in "Lassie Come Home" ("1943")
No top dog movie listing will go forgiven if Lassie is left behind. The most famous canine of our time, Lassie entered movie history appearing as the devoted best friend to Roddy McDowall's Joe Carraclough, a Yorkshire schoolboy who becomes heart-broken when his family is forced to sell the Collie due to hard times. Lucky for him, the dedicated Lassie escapes her new owner, journeying hundreds of miles just to be back by young Joe's side. Her dedication broke our hearts and enforced the term man's best friend, making us all wish we had a Lassie by our side. It is interesting to note though, that the dog acting as Lassie was actually a male named Pal, whose descendants went on to take on the same role as Lassie in various incarnations of the character.
Old Yeller in "Old Yeller" ("1957")
The bond between owner and canine has always been celebrated in movies but the classic "Old Yeller" offers a twist to that bond. What happens when your trusty four-legged buddy turns against you? When loyal Old Yeller defends his owners from a rabid wolf, he contracts the disease, leaving Travis Coates (Tommy Kirk), beloved owner and friend, to decide his fate. The heartbreaking decision made by Travis still plays on tragically in our minds.
101 Dalmatians in "101 Dalmatians" ("1961")
Before Cruella De Vil (Glenn Close) stole the limelight in the 1996 movie based on the cartoon, it was these animated canines that stayed in our memories not only because of the staggering quantity of pups appearing all over the screen, but also well, they were just plain cute. It was the camaraderie between Dalmatian parents Pongo and Perdita and their owners Roger and Anita that got us all rooting for the deliciously evil Cruella to be brought down by none other than the Dalmatians themselves in this Disney classic.
Cujo in "Cujo" ("1983")
Based on Stephen King's novel of the same name, Cujo tells the tale of a rabid St Bernard that terrorises a mother and her son, trapping them in a car which is slowly roasting under the extremely hot sun. Anyone who attempts to save the pair gets ripped apart by the crazed Cujo. A dog-centred movie, which for once, does not conform to the cliché, reminding the audience that not all furry friends are meant to be cuddled.
Hachiko in "Hachiko Monogatari" ("1987")
Also known as "Hachi-ko", this Japanese fare is based on the true account of the Akita breed called Hachiko. Adopted by Professor Shujiro Ueno (Tatsuya Nakadai), the devoted Hachiko took to waiting his owner's return from work everyday at the Shibuya station in Tokyo. When the professor passes away, Hachiko continues his wait at the station, hoping to catch a glimpse of Ueno without understanding why he never turned up on that faithful day. Touched by his loyalty, a bronze statue of Hachiko was erected by the Japanese at the Shibuya station, which is still there to this date. The movie has since went through a US remake starring Richard Gere in 2009.
Beethoven in "The Beethoven Franchise"
Inducing a terror of a different kind, Beethoven strikes fear in the heart of dad, George Newton (Charles Grodin) while earning the love of mum and the kids. Probably the most famous canine after Lassie, this St. Bernard is not afraid to be who he is, even when he is earning the wrath of dad. While the subsequent movies does not feature the same family, Beethoven's mischievousness continues to bring fun and laughter to those who know him, which explains the long list of movies featuring the 'devil' dog in dad's world.
Milo in "The Mask" ("1994")
Action proves louder than words with Milo, Stanley Ipkiss' (Jim Carrey) loyal canine who dons on the Mask in the nick of time to save his owner, even though he does it with a crazy twist. Watching the intelligent looking Jack Russell Terrier's whacky transformation into a cartoonish pitbull is an absolute delight, effectively tying Milo's presences with that of the Mask. While Cameron Diaz's Tina Carlyle stunned many with her appearance in "The Mask", it's really Milo who stood the test of time being recognised as Stanley's significant other half.
Gromit in "Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit" ("2005")
The cast of "The Hunter" posing for the press at the launch of Movie Carnival 2011.
Gromit may be the only dog in the world that doesn't bark, but he sure is the most capable among the lot of movie dogs we've seen so far. Not only does he clean up Wallace's messes, he also takes care of his diet, meals and everyday chores. Rather much like a friend/butler/caretaker for Wallace, no one gets it why Gromit sticks to this dim-witted inventor when the canine is obviously the more intelligent of the two. But that's probably what dogs are all about, they stick to you through thick or thin regardless of the situation, which is why we love Gromit so much.
Buck, Shadow, Maya, Max, Truman, Dewey, Shorty and Old Jack in "Eight Below" ("2006")
Eight sled dogs save the life of Jerry Shepard (Paul Walker), a guide at an Antarctica research base, when he and the dogs are stranded in the mountains due to an approaching snow storm. While he is evacuated, the dogs are left to fend for themselves in the cold. Racked with guilt, he gives his all to rescue them, but returns to base only to discover not all of them survived. Based on a true incident in 1958, "Eight Below" shines as a canine movie that does not attempt to sugar coat the sled dogs' attempt at survival.
Marley in "Marley and Me" ("2008")
Marley may look like your common family dog. He destroys, creates havoc and never listens to a word you say. But for John Grogan (Owen Wilson), Marley is also the inspiration behind every word penned in his column for a newspaper, which subsequently gains a huge following and builds him a career. In fact, this yellow Labrador retriever really did accomplish all that for his owner, as the movie was adapted from a book of the same name by John Grogan himself. When Marley passed, his eulogy received the largest amount of response from readers in the whole of Grogan's column-writing career.
Cinema Online, 24 October 2012