"Finding Rin Tin Tin" begins in France, 1918 where townsfolk walk around greeting each other and going about their daily lives. There we see some adorable little puppies who seek the company of their mother and enjoy swinging in baskets and find mischief in a farmer's freshly squeezed pale of milk. As soon as you start to feel comfort watching the small moments unfold before you in almost storybook fashion, disaster occurs. The sound of fighter planes roar in the distance and the townspeople look to the sky before fearfully fleeing from the streets.
After an explosion, we meet up with fighter pilot, Corporal Lee Duncan (Tyler Jensen) reminiscing at his base with Private Gaston (Gregory Gudgeon) who tells Lee a story about a girl named Nenette and her boyfriend, Rin Tin Tin who had to hide from bombs. The story is told to Lee in order to make the point that, "When you have a good heart, you have good luck." Yes, this is a film with cheesy one-liners and little in the way of plot, but keep in mind it's for children without any attempt to prove otherwise . When Lee and Gaston wake up they, along with other soldiers, spread out to help rescue anyone who might have been hurt from the bombings. Lee comes across a large German Shepherd and her pups in an abandoned shaft. It should go without saying that Lee keeps the puppies and their mother, and he and his friend Gaston take it upon themselves to name them all. One of the pups is named Rin Tin Tin and so begins his story.
Four months pass and Lee and Gaston receive news that they're being transferred to another base and all but one of the dogs has a place to go. Without any real conflict, Lee decides to take Rin Tin Tin (or Rinty as he calls him) to the new base with him. On their way to the new base, Rin Tin Tin gets his first jump into action as he chases a thief through a train station The whole chase scene is a little hokey with a lot of up-close shots of locals gasping in shock, generic chase music/sound effects, slapstick falls, and there's even some sped up camera work that just doesn't make sense. Note the moment where Rin Tin Tin is waving the flag and blowing the whistle,as well as the fart jokes on the train. There's little that can be said about these two moments except asking why. And yes, there are several of these moments from bathroom humor to more use of the fake dog arm throughout the film.
Lee and Gaston make it to the new base and again encounter little to no problems, that is unless you include the grouchy cook, Johnson who seems to be straight of a Dickens' knock-off novel. Johnson likes to spend his time yelling at Jacques (Ivan Rankov),a mute boy he bosses around the kitchen. And there's Major Snickens (William Hope) who, despite his authority and general dislike for any hint of disturbance, seems to be an afterthought throughout the majority of the film. Between spending time flying through the air with Lee, disturbing the soldier's sleep, and getting drunk (yes, getting drunk), Rin Tin Tin manages to do very little you expect from the famous dog. So Lee decides to do what he probably should have done when he found him as a puppy-train Rin Tin Tin.
Turns out, Lee found some papers when he rescued the pups. The papers had information about the dog's previous owner, Nikolaus (Ben Cross) who is in German prison camp. Initially, Lee is denied his request since it would mean talking with the enemy, but a literal second later and permission is granted. Lee asks Nikolaus to teach him to train Rin Tin Tin. Before you know it, Rin Tin Tin has a chance to redeem himself and save a baby from a burning building, reveal the cook's traitorous side to the authorities, and save some very important people.
This film is purely for children, and while they may get a chuckle or two from the bathroom humor, there's certainly better children's films to be found. Adults, however, may get some serious laughs from the unintentional humor on display throughout the movie.. While there were certainly too many gag sound effects and too many bizarre instances of Rin Tin Tin taking on human qualities (laughing and saying "shh"), "Finding Rin Tin Tin" does manage to shed some light on the true story of Lee Duncan and his dog.. There's enough action and cute puppies to keep their attention throughout most of the film and offer some kind advice along the way. "Finding Rin Tin Tin" is a straightforward story about a real dog who went on to be one of the world's favorite canine. However, the decision to add wacky slapstick instead of keeping this a straightforward heartwarming tale is truly sends this one to the doghouse.
Audio/video: First Look offers the film in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is a reasonably good transfer, with passable sharpness and detail. While a few instances of minor artifacting were spotted, the picture was otherwise clean and crisp, with no edge enhancement or print flaws. While the film's color palette was on the slightly subdued side, it seemed accurately presented here. The Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation was the bare basics, with little-to-nothing in the way of surround use and a rather basic spread across the front speakers. Audio quality wasn't particularly noteworthy, with flat dialogue and fairly limited effects and score.
"New Tricks for an Old Dog"
A behind the scenes look at "Finding Rin Tin Tin" with several actors from the film, director, Danny Lerner and producer Les Weldon discussing their thoughts about the film. One of the most interesting things that they talk about is the story of Rin Tin Tin and how it's a true story. They also discuss how "Finding Rin Tin Tin" is for children and how that changes how they approach the film. Discussion about keeping the look of the film accurate and capturing the essence of the look of the time period with color choice also takes place. Overall a good behind the scenes for someone interested in learning more.
"Finding Rin Tin Tin"
"The Apostles of Comedy"
Final thoughts: It's more than a little upsetting that this modern take on "Rin Tin Tin" couldn't have just been a pleasant, heartwarming family tale. Instead, it's a wacky, slapsticky and ridiculous family feature. While the kids may get a kick out of the bathroom humor (and the adults may get a kick out of the near-constant unintentional humor), there's certainly better choices for family entertainment these days. The DVD offers average audio/video quality.