CyberMutt (March 12/04)
Okay, CyberMutt isn't awful. By all rights, it should be one of the worst films ever made; it's a kiddie movie starring Judd Nelson (never a good sign) about a dog that receives robotic body parts. But underneath the cheesy exterior - including the requisite over-the-top bad guys - lies a charming little story about a mother and son struggling to cope with the recent death of a husband/father.
Nelson stars as Alex, an eccentric scientist who's developed a procedure allowing man-made parts to be implanted into a living creature (along with a special computer chip that just happens to have the ability to control every computer on the planet). His chance to test out the invention appears in the form of a dog named Rex, who is seriously hurt after sacrificing himself to save Alex from an oncoming car. Rex's owners, Juliet (Michelle Nolden) and her son Nino (Ryan Cooley), express concern over the operation but eventually decide to go through with it in order to save their dog. Rex emerges from the procedure with abilities that include heat vision and super strength - but it's the chip that catches the eye of a nefarious villain named Temple (Tonio Arango).
CyberMutt's been directed by George Miller (no, not the one that directed Mad Max - this is a different George Miller), who smartly keeps the pace quick and instances of broad comedy to a minimum. The only instance of a character that's aimed solely at the little ones is Temple's head goon, with his clumsy demeanor and "wacky" tendency to speak to himself. There seems to be a rule present in movies of this sort that says a silly bad guy must be included (call it the Home Alone syndrome - except nobody has ever been able to top Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern).
The performances in the film are surprisingly decent, with Cooley nicely avoiding the trap of playing one of those cloying and cutesy kids. Nelson's playing the same sort of quirky character he seems to have cornered the market on, except without the creepy overtones. While the storyline isn't exactly phenomenal, it contains enough elements to keep most viewers reasonably entertained. Screenwriters Kevin Commins and Gerald Sanford aren't looking to explore the ramifications of a bionic dog; they're content to allow the mutt to leap through fences and perform other equally impossible feats.
CyberMutt is a reasonably entertaining children's movie, though it's probably not wise to compare it to other dog movies like Fluke or Shiloh. It's certainly not a painful experience (ie along the lines of an Agent Cody Banks or its dreadful sequel), and that's about all one can ask out of such a film.