Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Hardly Boys in Hardly Gold

Movies can raise all sorts of questions for their viewers. The Hardly Boys in Hardly Gold (1995), directed by William Wegman, raises two very big questions: what kind of drugs was this guy taking when he made this? And more importantly, was he serious?

Wegman, who has done voice work on Sesame Street, among a few other jobs on the likes of Saturday Night Live, directed and executive produced this 28-minute short. He also narrated it and provided most of the voice work. It's a live-action movie about a family on a trip to a cabin in the woods, and the two sons get involved in some mystery involving a missing aunt and some scheme to dump of sewage into a lake. So far, that sounds like a fairly innocuous children's movie. I should mention the "actors" in this movie are dogs with human bodies.

I have no idea why this was done. This film feels like it was made by someone who really loves dogs but lacked the skill and budget to train them to do anything. The "effect" was achieved by having the dogs stick their heads through a shirt while the humans blindly flail their arms around, trying to simulate whatever action the narrator says they're supposed to be doing. Children's movies, especially cartoons, often have anthropomorphic animals, but usually, they're used in ways that can be charming, whimsical, funny, or cute. The Hardly Boys in Hardly Gold is just creepy; putting dog heads on human bodies is the stuff of nightmares.

It's even more awkward because the dogs themselves don't really do anything except kind of stare blankly at everything, even when they're ostensibly fishing, rowing a canoe, or sneaking around a cabin. Even when they're talking, their mouths don't move. At least Mr. Ed had the decency to feed its horse peanut butter, so it at least looked like it was talking. These dogs just look bored.

Wegman also demonstrates that as a voice actor, he's not exactly Mel Blanc. Every character he voices and the narrator sound exactly the same, and they speak in the same flat, dull, un-emotive voice. Couple that with the fact that all the dogs are the same breed, and it's hard to tell which character is speaking or even if they're supposed to talking.

The Hardly Boys is Hardly Gold is just filled with baffling weirdness. I can't do it justice. One of the early scenes is a montage of the family playing games, including tennis, croquet, and horseshoes, and at one point, the dog playing tennis catches the ball in its mouth. This doesn't feel real. It feels more like a fake movie, the kind of thing that plays in the background of another movie or TV show as a parody of children's entertainment.

The plot makes no sense, and the central image of the film - the dog as a human - is just weird. I sat through this thing stupefied the entire time, just wondering what I was supposed to be thinking. In a way, it's kind of hilarious, like The Room or Troll 2; the people who made it apparently had no grasp of reality. While watching, I felt my brain draining out of my ear and required a substantial amount of alcohol to get through it.

No comments:

Post a Comment