In the race for 1989's best crime comedy about a cop who inherits a mangy dog, Turner & Hooch leads K-9 by a muzzle.
Most of this has to do with Hanks, who—with all due respect to W.C. Fields—is way too appealing to be in any danger of being overshadowed by Beasley the De Bordeaux. Not that Beasley doesn't try.
For one thing, he is truly, ultimately ugly, as if one of Tove Borgnine's beauty treatments had backfired on Ernest in a major way. For another, Beasley gets just about as much screen time from director Roger (Shoot to Kill) Spottiswoode as Hanks does, and while Hanks has more lines, Beasley incessantly drools—make that slobbers—in a very obtrusive fashion.
One of this film's shortcomings, in fact, is that while it took five people to write its screenplay, it depends mostly on jokes involving Beasley slobbering, biting or indulging in flatulent behavior.
The plot has to do with Hanks, an investigator for a small-town police department on the California coast, getting involved in a murder case just as he is about to quit and move to Sacramento. He inherits Beasley from the victim and soon realizes he is embroiled with serious crooks. He is also embroiled with Winningham, an appealing, unaffected actress. She and Hanks cozy up with convincing ardor, though he at first says he doesn't want to fall in love: "It would be all right for a while. But then you'd just end up calling me a self-centered bastard and scream and pull your hair out and say, 'I never want to see you again!' " They get past this commitment phobia, however, all the way to a kitchen love scene that is none the less sexy for being nonexplicit.
Be ready for serious cops-and-robbers violence and Beasley's often sickening antics. The film has a friendly feel, though, and encourages a rewarding number of smiles. If there were a canine branch of At the Movies, this film would rate about a paw and a half, with a small tail wag for good measure. (PG)