Benji: Off the Leash

| August 23, 2004

This latest installment in the successful and well-loved Benji series of theatrical features is sure to charm its intended audience of families with children and pet lovers everywhere. It opened in theatres nationwide on August 20, 2004 and is MPAA rated PG. The running time is about 100 minutes.
For those of you who don’t already know, Benji is the lovable, smart and adorable puppy with a heart as big as his huge eyes. More than 71 million people have seen the earlier films in theatres. The first three are: Benji (1974), For The Love Of Benji (1977), & Benji The Hunted (1987). All four of these films are written and directed by Camp.(Benji also co-starred with Chevy Chase in Joe Camp’s Oh Heavenly Dog! (1980) but it’s not an official Benji film since he and Chase played different versions of the same character!)
Joe Camp is the man behind Benji. He wrote, produced and directed the first of the Benji motion pictures, ignoring industry “experts” who said such a movie would never work. The major studios had no interest and advised him not to bother with the film. Camp moved ahead, raising the money from private sources, and when the film was completed, his movie was turned down by every major film distributor in Hollywood. Camp co-founded his own distribution company, which released the picture worldwide with Camp personally developing the marketing strategy, writing advertising copy and press releases, and supervising each and every booking. In spite of the many obstacles, the first Benji film was a worldwide success, leading to several more movies and television programs. Joe Camp is to be commended for casting abandoned animals in his films and in his efforts to expose operators of illegal animal breeding operations.
The main plot of Benji: Off The Leash concerns the efforts of 14 year old Colby (Nick Whitaker) to keep “Puppy” safe from his mean stepfather, Hackett (Chris Kendrick). Hackett runs an illegal “puppy mill” where he breeds puppies under awful conditions. Without going into a lot of detail, few will be surprised that the bad guy gets what he deserves in the end, thanks to Colby with the help of “Puppy” who eventually gets discovered and cast as the lead in the next Benji movie!
On a personal note, several of my Mississippi (Natchez) high school classmates are associated with this production and I wish them much success.

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