It seems like yesterday, but about a year ago; my cat of 14 years had died. Her name was Burns. She had survived through my college years and the worst period in my life during my 20’s. Sarah had come into my life at that point and I guess my cat finally realized she could let go. Burns was always a loyal companion and there to bring me up when I needed it. I never had a better pet than her, and I probably never will. Hachi, A Dog’s Tale is another story about a faithful animal, adapted from a Japanese true story.
It’s hero day at a local school. One student named Ronnie (played by Kevin DeCoste) starts to spin the tale about his hero: Hachi. Hachi is a dog that was actually owned by his grandfather, Parker (played by Richard Gere). We then start to flash back to a Japanese man shipping an Akita dog that travels cross county and ends up in Rhode Island.
Parker Wilson is a music professor at the local university in Rhode Island. He travels by train each morning and afternoon to get to the university. One day, after talking to Carl (played by Jason Alexander), the train station manager, he notices an Akita puppy just walking around with no owner. He goes around to various people and tries to find the dog’s owner or a home to stay for the night. He finds neither and finally decides to take him home to his house.
However, the house is not exactly waiting with open arms. His wife, Cate (played by Joan Allen) is not very high on animals and doesn’t really want to keep him. Parker puts up signs for an owner or somebody to adopt him but slowly starts to bond with the animal. He even names the dog Hachi, from his collar after it is translated by his friend Ken (played by Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa).
Eventually, with some pleading from their daughter Andy (played by Sarah Roemer) and seeing in person how much Hachi & Parker have bonded; Cate accepts the dog into the household. Parker starts to try and teach Hachi various tricks like fetch but he is slow to learn. Despite this, the dog is highly affectionate and becomes very attached to his master.
Hachi starts to follow Parker to the train station as he goes to work. Parker catches him and is able to teach Hachi how to go home. However, when the professor gets home at the end of the day, he is greeted by Hachi who happens to be sitting at the train station. Apparently when Hachi hears the train whistle from their house, he figures out the path on how to get to the station.
Soon, the ritual is for Hachi to accompany Parker in the morning to the station, go home, and then meet him back at the station at the end of the day. Along the way each day, he makes friends with the station manager Carl and the street vendor, Jess (played by Eric Avari) who watch over and make sure no ill fate comes toward him.
One day, Hachi doesn’t want to accompany Parker to the train station. He barks and becomes withdrawn. Parker decides to go to the train station anyway. As he is about to board the station, Hachi comes bounding up but with the ball that Parker tried to teach him to fetch. They play fetch for a little bit and then Parker decides to leave on a later train. However, once the professor leaves that day, it begins the journey of a very special dog and his everlasting loyalty to his master.
The story of Hachi or rather Hachiko (Japanese name meaning “eight” and “familiar”) is actually adapted from a Japanese true story of an Akita pup who becomes very much attached to his master. In fact, there is still a statue today at Shibuya Station and has been there since the end of the second World War. An annual ceremony is held on March 8th to celebrate his devotion.
With that said, this movie is a frenzied fur ball of emotion from start to finish. It will absolutely tear at your heart strings and make you reach for your box of tissues. There are plenty of fine performances here from the likes of Richard Gere, Joan Allen, and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa. The ending was also the right way to go without any silly theatrics or trying to go for the jugular. However, the movie while excellent did have its share of issues.
The first effect that I felt unnecessary was the black & white camera view to simulate the eyes of the dog. Most people are aware that dogs are perceived to be color-blind, there is no need to reinforce it. The other issue is time period. The original events were set in the 20’s and 30’s and this movie was set in modern day Rhode Island. But, the way they treated the surroundings and the people was more set to the 20’s. The problem is, they also would flash in the internet or cell phones and it caused the movie to be jarring and inconsistent.
The video is shown in 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen @ 1080p. This movie is beautiful, it just makes me want to visit Rhode Island if I ever had the funds and energy. The scenes are crisp and honestly there is nothing to complain about here. The only thing that might detract somebody is that you can obviously tell they used three different dogs to play Hachi. Of course, they had to do that to simulate the aging dog; but they didn’t use three people to play Parker’s daughter did they?
The audio is presented in 5.1 DTS-HD MA English. The dialog is very clear and there are no problems, even with the accents of actors like Tagawa or Avari. As expected, this is a 100% talking film except for the occasional musical interlude or effect. It stays mostly in the center channel and doesn’t really deviate. Subtitles are provided in English & English SDH.
- Automatic Trailers: Open Season 3 (teaser) & Planet 51
- A Bond of Loyalty: The Making of Hachi, a Dog’s Tale 17:50: The making of featurette which starts off with a ton of praise for Richard Gere and how he knew he absolutely had to do this film. Most of the featurette is naturally spent on the dogs and how difficult they were to train. Jason Alexander is also a prominent part in this featurette and offer a lot of insight into the akitas as well as the characters.
- BD Live with Movie IQ: BD Live is enabled on this disc and on display is Movie IQ. Movie IQ is essentially an up to date encyclopedia that will give you information on everything and anything that you want to know about the movie or the actors that runs along with the movie.
- Previews: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Open Season 2, The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep & Facing the Giants
As I draw to the end of this review, I am reminded of a famous quote: “Time keeps no measure when true friends are parted, No record day by day; the sands move not for those who, loyal-hearted, friendship’s firm laws obey.” Hachi was the very definition of loyalty, no matter what happened to his master; he was there for him every day at the train station. It’s also a tale that speaks of wonderful values and something the whole family can enjoy. The disc is decent with more than sufficient video and audio but I wish the extras were meatier; perhaps a directory and/or cast commentary. I’m not sure if I will ever watch this film again (unless it is with a child who has never seen it), but it will certainly stay with me for a lifetime. Recommended.