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Top Dog fails to entertain as both action, kid's movie

Top Dog

Directed by Aaron Norris.

Written Ron Swanson, based on an original story by Aaron Norris and Tim Grayem.

Starring Chuck Norris, Erik Von Detten, Michele Lamar Richards, Clyde Kusatsu, Peter Savard Moore, and Reno the dog.

Sony Copley Place.

By Rob Wagner
Staff Reporter

For better or for worse, Chuck Norris is back. Perhaps he would be better off sticking with his guest appearances on World Wrestling Federation events. Perhaps he should concentrate more on his TV show, Walker: Texas Ranger. In any case, he should not be doing movies like Top Dog. Director Aaron Norris proves the adage not to mix family and business.

The main problem is that Top Dog is unable to decide on an audience. Most of Chuck Norris' movies have played to a specific audience. For those seeking a good action flick with plenty of violence and superfluous kicking, Norris' films have been generally acceptable. To that end, Top Dog is but the latest vehicle for his kicking tough-man image.

Top Dog fails miserably as an action movie. Violence in this film is unrealistic even by Norris movie standards. For example, at least 30 bad guys surround police officer Jake Wilder (Norris), and what do they do? Of course, they attack one at a time. It also takes Norris an incredible number of kicks and punches, but mostly kicks, to put a guy down. Maybe he's getting old, or maybe the film is just bad.

The evil menace in this film seems to be a cross between the Foot Clan in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the nonsensical cult in Stallone's Cobra. A white supremacist group seeks to unite all white supremacist groups in the United States by having a huge bombing and massacre on Hitler's birthday in San Diego, Wilder's hometown. They meet in conveniently darkened factories expounding inane rhetoric and giving each other Nazi salutes. The idiocy of these villains is laughable.

On the other hand, it attempts to be a kid's movie. One main character is Reno, a police dog, who is amazingly intelligent and adept at police work. He loves jelly donuts, as do all other police officers in this film, and he is amazing at sniffing out explosives and fighting. But you'll be disappointed if you're expecting Benji or a Lassie.

Top Dog is too violent to be a real kid's movie, though a few scenes were included to appeal to a distinctly young audience. It seemed that all eight people in the theater laughed at a few scenes. Scenes at a dog show, where Reno gets into all sorts of trouble, and scenes of a boy doing tricks with his bicycle, definitely cater to an audience of 10-year olds. However, the amount of violence in this film gives it a PG-13 rating. Thus, what seems to be a target audience must be accompanied by a parent.

Looking at these features, how does one classify such drivel? It fails as an action movie because it contains so much kid's stuff, and it fails as a kid's movie because it has so much violence. This mix of "cute" dog movie with Chuck Norris' fighting will not attract a distinct audience. Those 10-year olds enticed by recent advertisements are required to have their parents accompany them. But saying this movie lacks a distinct audience is giving it a little too much credit: Instead, it is fair to say that this movie has no audience at all.

The mix between action movie and kid's movie is not even a Suburban Commando. Jeb the talking dog on Saban's VR Troopers is more entertaining. Perhaps it would be even more entertaining and less expensive to buy a gallon of paint, remove the lid, and wait.