After the dust settled, the original Benji (1974) made nearly $40 million in domestic sales—a large haul for an independent production, even by today's standards. The Benji sequels—in theaters and on TV—were also produced independently. And now, staying true to his independent roots, Joe Camp, creator of the Benji franchise, has written, produced, and directed Benji: Off the Leash!, a new dog adventure that reiterates Camp's unshakable commitment to family entertainment. While the film—the first new Benji movie in almost two decades—won't necessarily bring in mobs of older teens or young adults, parents now have another fun and fairly safe film to watch with their kids.

And, seriously, who can resist Benji's big brown eyes?

Colby (Nick Whitaker) and Benji, showin' some luv

Colby (Nick Whitaker) and Benji, showin' some luv

Since Camp found the first Benji at an animal shelter (which subsequently prompted over one million animal adoptions), he decided to find his new star at a shelter as well. He finally found her—yes, this Benji's a her)—in a small Mississippi town, and she's a beauty. Another finalist named Shaggy, from Chicago, had such a rambunctious personality that Camp couldn't help but create a part in the film for him, too. With his two animal leads in place, Camp then rounded out his cast with human actors from Utah, where the film was shot.

Off the Leash! follows the traditional Benji formula: persistent hero dog saves the day, person(s), and/or animal(s). This version brings a slight twist to this age-old story: As the opening credits fade in and out, actors in the form of newscasters from around the U.S. discuss Joe Camp's search for the newest Benji. While Camp incorporates the nationwide dog hunt as his backdrop for the film, it's not clear that this premise runs throughout ...

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Benji: Off the Leash!
Our Rating
2½ Stars - Fair
Average Rating
 
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Mpaa Rating
PG (for thematic elements and some mild language)
Directed By
Joe Camp
Run Time
1 hour 37 minutes
Cast
Nick Whitaker, Nate Bynum, Chris Kendrick, Randall Newsome
Theatre Release
August 20, 2004 by Mulberry Square Releasing
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