Thursday, May 9, 2013

C.H.O.M.P.S. (1979)

A pathetic attempt by Hanna-Barbera Productions to mimic the Disney style of special-effects-driven family comedies, C.H.O.M.P.S. has nothing going for it except for glossy production values, a perky leading lady (Valerie Bertinelli), and a scruffy canine star. In fact, the only thing more dispiriting than the picture’s cliché-riddled storyline is the imbecilic dialogue. The plot cobbles together stock elements familiar to anyone who’s seen live-action Disney pictures from the ’70s. Successful entrepreneur Ralph Norton (Conrad Bain) owns a security company, and one of his employs is a ne’er-do-well inventor, Brian Foster (Wesley Eure), who is, of course, in love with Norton’s daughter, Casey (Bertinelli). After Brian gets fired, he shows Casey his new invention, C..H.O.M.P.S., a robot dog designed for home security. Complications of the dullest sort ensue when one of Norton’s competitors, Gibbs (Jim Backus), tries to steal C.H.O.M.P.S. before Norton recognizes the value of the invention. The movie also features inane subplots involving bumbling crooks (played by Red Buttons and Chuck McCann) and a mean neighborhood dog with whom C.H.O.M.P.S. tussles. C.H.O.M.P.S. is crammed with cloying music that erupts into disco jams during chase scenes, suggesting an unholy convergence of Carl Stalling and Giorgio Moroder, and the cast overplays cartoonishly, right down to Backus presenting a black-hat riff on his old Gilligan’s Island characterization. The picture also presents gruesome images irresponsibly. This is the sort of movie where villains get caught in explosions but walk away with nothing but ash-covered faces and ripped clothing; similarly, the bit where Brian rips off his robot dog’s head to display the inner workings to Casey seems unnecessarily savage. Yet the weirdest element is the presence of minor, PG-rated vulgarity (which was excised from G-rated release prints). Monster, the nasty dog who fights with C.H.O.M.P.S., “speaks” in voiceover, saying things like “Up your poop, granny.” If one strained to find a single meritorious aspect of this misbegotten movie, it could be noted that Bertinelli was as the apex of her girl-next-door adorableness—but fans of the actress would do better to scratch that particular itch by watching a One Day at a Time rerun.



FilmFather said...

Another reason I feel like I was cheated out of quality kid movies as a child of the '70s. Much like other stinkers like The Cat from Outer Space, my memories have played tricks on me and I remembered enjoying C.H.O.M.P.S. as a kid. Then I tried to watch it with my 8-year-old son a couple of years ago. Woof, indeed.

Anonymous said...

Besides 'One Day at a Time' I think Bertinelli is fun in the more recent 'Hot in Cleveland' TV-show as well. She even manages to at times upstage the impeccable Betty White, which isn't easy. Also, did you know that Bertinelli was the original choice for "Blue Lagoon"?

Unknown said...

This was the last movie I saw with my Grandma and cousins before she died. It is special to me