“Keep them out of my way, or they’re really gonna end up sausages!”
The Ugly Dachshund is a silly cute-animal comedy the likes of which humanity will never see again, its breed having been slaughtered to the point of extinction by the talking, farting, rapping computer-generated bestiaries that run rampant through such films as Eddie Murphy’s Doctor Doolittle. If a sweet, unpretentious film about animals getting into mischief is your thing, this is it.
The story is pretty dull and inconsequential – really, it’s all just filler between charming scenes of canine hi-jinks. Mark Garrision (Dean Jones) is a young, successful commercial artist whose wife Fran (Suzanne Pleshette) dotes on her dachshund. When the prize wiener gives birth to puppies, the veterinarian convinces Mark to also take home a baby Great Dane who has been rejected by his mother. The Dane, named Brutus, grows up with the dachshunds, apparently convinced that he himself is a wiener instead of a Dane. Naturally, this is the premise upon which 99% of the film’s comedy is built.
Mark and Fran – who sleep in separate twin beds and presumably never have sex – become competitive about their respective dogs (Brutus the Dane, of course, is Mark’s), and so when Fran enters her wieners in the dog show, Mark enters Brutus in the same show without telling her, in the hopes of showing her up and waving a blue ribbon in her stupid wiener-crazed face. To do this, he must get Brutus to stop behaving like a dachshund. He fails until Brutus gets an eyeful of a female Great Dane, and gets inspired to act like a MAN instead of a goddamned wiener. That’s the story.
The real reason to watch this movie are the scenes featuring the canines exclusively. The most awesome scene, though not the largest in scale, is when the dogs get loose in Mark’s art studio, where they empty every tube of paint, knock over every can and bottle, and spill every colorful commodity in the room as they slip and slide around on the floor, making a bigger mess than Jackson Pollock on a drunken rampage. If you love art supplies on a deep emotional level, you might start to weep with horror at their abuse at the paws of these furry little four-legged maniacs. In another scene, the dogs unravel several balls of yarn around the living room, tying up all the furniture and prancing across the piano, creating crazy experimental wiener jazz the likes of which Thelonius Monk might have enjoyed. The third and most epic scene of doggy destruction features a dinner party, in the grand tradition of slapstick comedy. The new twist offered by The Ugly Dachshund is the fact that it is a Japanese themed dinner party – naturally, the Japanese servers wind up slurring their L’s into R’s, and get a faceful of gooey cake apiece when the “Rion!” runs amok at the party (silly Asians, it’s not a lion, it’s a friendly Great Dane! Hahahaha!!!). And naturally, everyone winds up in the fish pond.
This film is typical of the mindless (but admittedly, fun) comedies that defined the live-action Disney output of the sixties. The people who are mostly likely to enjoy this earnest little film are small children and dog lovers.
The film’s transfer to DVD is unusually crisp and clear for a Disney release, and the Special Features include an unexpected documentary called The Faces of Mako, which chronicles the uneven career of the Japanese character actor Mako. Mako portrays Kenji in The Ugly Dachshund, the brave young Japanese caterer who tries to subdue the “rion” who runs amok at the Garrison’s dinner party with lots of mugging and playful martial arts.
If this film were made in today’s political climate, the Garrisons would probably take their talking, rapping, farting Great Dane to Eddie Murphy to be surgically turned into a female wiener dog, rather than cruelly forcing him to accept his identity and stop behaving like a sissy little dachshund. Also, Mark and Fran would probably sleep in the same bed and we would probably have to listen to the dogs offer wry commentary on their masters’ bedroom habits. There would probably be lots of leg-humping, and references to doing it “doggy style” slipped in to please the moronic, perverted adults in the audience. Smashmouth would show up at the end to perform a song about believing in yourself and not being afraid to be a transsexual, non-competitive, rapping, farting wiener dog.