Retro Review: Cujo

2011/07/31 17:42:49 +00:00 | Steph Howard

We think of our dogs as man’s best friend; someone who will be excited when we walk through the door after work, someone who doesn’t judge our terrible shower singing, and someone who can out-snore any house guest. Dogs are our furry emotional rocks; so when our happy-go-lucky pets get sick, we’d do anything to make them feel better, right?

For Cujo, his strange sickness might have been avoided had his owner made the time to take him to the vet. Instead, when massive St. Bernard Cujo is bitten by a bat, he is left to fend for himself while his “rabies” grows into a full blown, super-canine abomination, leading to the death and destruction of those who dare to step into his path.

In a rural town in Maine, the Trentons are having all sorts of trouble of their own: there’s a monster in their son’s closet, their Pinto is falling apart, and their marriage is hanging out with the Grim Reaper. When the truth breaks out about Donna’s (Dee Wallace E.T., The Howling, Critters) affair, and Vic’s (Daniel Hugh Kelly Star Trek: Insurrection, As the World Turns) biggest add campaign meets an unexpected recall, his leaving town for an emergency board meeting sounds too good to be true. Little does Vic know that the family he plans to temporarily leave might just not be around when he comes home.

Cujo, based on Stephen King’s novel of the same title, takes a new approach to the usual inspection of human nature. One thing that director, Lewis Teague (Stephen King’s Cat’s Eye), and screenplay adaptors, Don Carlos Dunaway and Lauren Currier, really showcase is the despicable nature of inherently egomaniacal people. Where we usually see selflessness in King’s work’s like The Stand and loving marriages like that in The Golden Years, King shows the other side to our social nature, perhaps to keep things in perspective.The character that truly exemplifies these self-absorbed traits the best is the mother. She is very easy to hate, so much so that it takes away from the movie.

One aspect of the film that I found surprising is how attached the viewer could get to the dog. From the cover art and hearsay one might come into the movie expecting a vicious, evil dog, instead of a sick one. It’s so hard to watch the lovable, lazy giant suffer, and the effects job that the crew does for the progression of Cujo’s change is heartbreakingly realistic. It will have you yelling at the tv and wondering why no one is taking care of the poor dog.

If taken lightly, at face value, this movie has the potential to put you on edge and piss you off. However, if you compare Cujo to Pet Sematary, The Shawshank Redemption, or The Green Mile, there is a lot left to be desired in the heart of this movie. Again, with the pure selfishness of the characters, it can be difficult to find these characters genuine or to even empathize with their situations. Many viewers will be exacerbated by Donna’s lack of motherly instinct, and while some might feel bad for Cujo, this movie is no Old Yeller.