'Bingo': doggedly dull despite dunning din of kiddie ditty


August 12, 1991|By Tom Jacobs | Tom Jacobs,Los Angeles Daily News

Admittedly, Hollywood is having a difficult time finding material these days. But did anyone really think the children's song "Bingo" ("There was a boy who had a dog/and Bingo was his name, oh/B-I-N-G-O. . . .") was promising material for a film?

What's next: "Ring Around the Rosie: The Movie"?

"Bingo," as you might imagine, is the story of a boy and his dog. The pair meet when Bingo, a mongrel who has been kicked out of the circus by his evil master, saves Chuckie (Robert J. Steinmiller Jr.) from drowning.

Chuckie wants to adopt Bingo, but his dad (David Rasche), a self-centered, workaholic football place kicker, refuses. When Dad is traded from Denver to Green Bay, the dog follows the family across the plains.

Along the way, Bingo gets into a variety of adventures: He leads a break-out of a group of dogs at a particularly unethical sausage factory. He helps police arrest a pair of bumbling kidnappers (by dialing 911 and then explaining the situation in Morse code by manipulating the receiver). He even goes to jail, where -- like the other inmates -- he is forced to wear a regulation green uniform.

It's easy enough to see what director Matthew Robbins was after: a kids' film that adults would find enjoyable. The idea was that kids would enjoy the story of a boy and his dog (not to mention the dumber gags), while adults would appreciate the satire of various film genres incorporated in the plot.

Unfortunately, he fails both his potential audiences. Considering the sourness of the father-son relationship (which continues until the final few frames), it's hard to imagine kids having a very good time at this film.

And on an adult level, the attempts at parodying archetypal film situations are extremely lame. Mr. Robbins and writer Jim Strain think that if you simply take a familiar movie scene -- say, a courtroom or an operating room -- and include a dog as a central character, it automatically becomes hilarious.

Wrong. One still needs some wit in the writing; simply having a dog on the witness stand is not, in itself, all that amusing. The only truly funny moments concern the attempts of one of the kidnappers, Lennie (Kurt Fuller), to remain environmentally conscientious even as he commits his crimes.

Another bad idea was to have one character or another sing, whistle, hum or play the song "Bingo" roughly once every five minutes. "I'm sick of that song!" Lennie screams late in the film. The sentiment no doubt will be widely shared.


Starring Robert J. Steinmiller Jr. and David Rasche.

Directed by Matthew Robbins.

Released by Tri-Star Pictures.

Rated G.

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