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Hanks is first-rate, but he can't match the slobber production of Beasley, his co-star
on 27 September 2008
There are two film stars who shine brightly in the pantheon of those whose lives were tragically cut short just at the cusp of iconic movie greatness...James Dean and Sal Mineo. Yet there is a third who by rights should join them. This actor made but one film, yet his ability to project bravery, loyalty, compassion and the boisterous joy of living through his acting was, many believe, without parallel. He died at the height of his fame, a mere three years after his triumphant success in this film. Let there now be three stars in that tragic but noble pantheon...Dean, Mineo and Beasley. And let it be recognized, without envy or jealousy, that Beasley's ability to project drool was far greater and more accurate than Dean and Mineo combined.
Turner & Hooch is a low key, modest comedy crime caper with a heavy dose of light romance thrown in. Tom Hanks plays Detective Scott Turner, a young man who is far too neat for his own good. He's about to transfer from his small town of Cypress Beach to the big city when a friend, an old man played by that great character actor John McIntire, is murdered. Turner delays his move and pleads with his police chief to be given the case. He's sure the old man's dog, a big, slobbering French Mastiff named Hooch (Beasley) saw what happened and can help identify the killer. Turner agrees to have Hooch live with him while he's on the case. Not to cut the plot to short, Turner and Hooch solve the case, but not without wild car chases, tense shoot-outs, money laundering, veterinary examinations, furniture chewing, refrigerator raiding and a lot of slobber.
The movie's plot, of course, is just an excuse to allow two actors with great likability to do their stuff. Hanks had by now already proven how skilled a light comedy actor he was. More to the point, he had the sort of personality and slightly goofy looks that created instant empathy with an audience. Beasley, however, was the surprise. A novice actor, he was an unknown without even off-Broadway experience. He carried out his role with the skill and subtlety of a pro. Just as some actors can cause real tears to run down their faces at the command of a director, Beasley was uncanny in his ability to generate, as needed, drool. His resourcefulness also has become legend. In one scene, the sight of Hanks prancing around his apartment wearing a pair of tighty-whities (black ones) threatened to derail Hollywood's gay fashion industry. Fortunately, Beasley suggested quietly to the director that some amusing antics on his part might distract the audience from the odd awfulness of Hank's appearance. He was right. Yet the scene where Hanks and Beasley are on the pier and Scott Turner must wrestle Hooch to the police car is a fine example of ensemble acting by two talented and unselfish actors, each totally into their characters and yet giving fully to the other.
At the end of the movie the murder has been solved, the mastermind unmasked and young Turner has become chief of police. He has a wife, the veterinarian Dr. Emily Carson (played winningly by Mare Winningham). They have a baby on the way. They will remember Hooch in many ways, and so will Emily's collie.
I like Turner & Hooch a lot. It's pleasant entertainment with two likeable and skilled actors and a story that hangs together. Wherever in that pantheon they reside, I'm sure Dean and Mineo are working with Beasley, now all of them close friends, to perfect slobber on command. The DVD transfer looks just fine. There are no extras.