“At present your home is not safe, even when you are there. So protect yourselves. Be sure to have good locks, good security systems. I’m addition, you might consider getting a watchdog. And I’m not necessarily talking about a large dog. Any dog that can bark will make a good watchdog.”
Well, this dog does a lot more than bark in this 1979 family-friendly comedy. Standing for “Canine HOMe Protection System,” C.H.O.M.P.S. is the story of a young inventor who creates a revolutionary home security system that is as cute as it is effective: a robotic dog that is virtually indistinguishable from the real thing. Given that he modeled the robot after his actual pet, that creates a couple of funny hijinks later on in the film, but we are getting ahead of ourselves. The film stars Wesley Eure, an actor popular for his starring roles in family-friendly entertainment that includes Land of the Lost, Finders Keepers, and the educational television series, Dragon Tales. Eure also does us the honor of formally introducing us to the film in the opening moments. Joining Eure is Valerie Bertinelli of One Day at a Time fame, as well as the TV Land network staple Hot in Cleveland, which also starred the recently departed Betty White (R.I.P.).
Back on subject, I enjoyed this film a great deal more than I expected to. I admit I had initial reservation that the jokes or subject matter would not translate well to a modern format, but it is safe to say that the film transcended the time barrier, as I was very easily able to identify with it and have fun with it. The characters, while a bit transparent, did not feel outdated, especially Bertinelli’s character of Casey Norton, who is not afraid to speak her mind and stand up to anyone, whether it be her father, her boyfriend, or a burglar. Her quip when she asked a robber in a ski mask whether he preferred his sack of loot in his hand or over his head was an unexpected and hilarious moment. With that one line, she completely established her character as someone who bucked the dainty rich girl façade, as someone to be admired. It’s no wonder that there were multiple men vying for her attention.
Of course she only has eyes for Brian, our underdog character. He is clearly brilliant, but going through a spell of bad luck in regards to how his security systems are being penetrated. That is the issue that sets up the premise of the film and establishes the need for his revolutionary system. However, it felt a little like we were being brought in at the middle of the film. By the time we are aware of the system, it is already a thing. I would have liked to have been taken back to the inception of the idea. I think that would have played really well here. As is, it’s fine, but I experienced a momentary disorientation, because I wasn’t expecting things to unravel so quickly. I actually thought I might have skipped ahead accidentally. Either way, once I recovered and realized that things were moving faster than I anticipated, I was able to keep up with ease.
Essentially, the focus of the film is Brian’s efforts to showcase his new technology, all the while fending off several rogue elements that attempt to steal his technology out from under him. At the same time, there is some friction in his relationship with Casey, as he realizes that he may not be the only one who has eyes for her. The two plot lines coexist with relative ease, but there was one subplot which caused some disparity, involving a voiceover for one canine character. I have no issues with voiceovers; the problem is despite multiple canine characters, there is only one dog that seems to have a voice. And it’s not even the main dog of the film. I expect this was intended to provide some comic relief, but in actuality, all it does is produce a one-sided conversation that in the grand scheme of the film seems unnecessary.
This is a family-friendly film, and though I did not watch this one with my family, I can visualize that it would have fit right in with the types of films that we tend to enjoy as a family. I’d even wager that despite it not being of my daughter’s generation, she would have found elements of the film to enjoy. I wouldn’t characterize it as a film with a moral or any particular message, but just a fun film, especially for dog lovers.