Wednesday, April 1, 2015
Rex: The Early Years (1997)
Can you believe that in four years of blogging, I've never once talked about Inspector Rex? I know right! What the hell is wrong with me?! Actually I have a genuine reason for not having done so in the past, and it's because DVD's from the SBS shop are darn expensive! How expensive, you ask? Well, Stockinger, the Inspector Rex spinoff, costs $80 dollars ($40 per volume, at the least), even though it's only fourteen episodes long!
Ok, I'd better start explaining what exactly I'm talking about. Kommissar Rex is an Austrian TV show that ran from 1994 to 2004, and is a cultural staple in Australia. And thankfully, Australians aren't racist when it comes to subtitles, so we've always enjoyed the show in its original language rather than go "TWAIN'T NO WANT TA NO READ-READ! SUBTITLES IS FOR BOOKS!" and demand dubbing. We're cool that way. Overall, the show is so popular here that it could be moreso than in its home country!
The show is about Rex, a German Shepard police dog, who's always solving cases with his incredibly intelligence, as well as foiling the love lives of his owners. Rex is an adorable character, and provides a lot of humour and cute antics to the series...A series that's a dark cop show! I'm serious, episodes of Kommissar Rex can get downright morbid, and these are mixed in with nice Rex scenes! Thankfully this never causes a problem, and the series is never tonally awkward. It's too well-written for that.
Rex: The Early Years, or Baby Rex: The Little Inspector, is a made-for-TV origin story for the character. It follows Benny Nachmann, a young kid who adopts Rex after the pup is stolen from his breeder owners by a criminal working for a ruthless businessman named Kainz. Six months later, Benny and Rex go out hiking to investigate a water reservoir, where he realizes that illegal siphoning is occurring...
This is a very entertaining little movie! It tells a well-written story, with plenty of turns, and developments. It never feels like an unnecessary prequel, and it remains true to the spirit of the show. The tone of Rex: The Early Years is more kid-friendly than the TV series, as there's no brutal murders, frequent nudity, or copious bloodshed. Granted, the plot is still adult, as are the majority of characters. In fact, the plot is more adult than most English kids movies, that's for sure! What happens in an American kids movie when the villain is chasing the scamp of a lead? He'll try and tie him up, or lock him in a room. What does the villain in Rex: The Early Years do? He tries to gun the child down, and then he sticks him in a refrigerator to suffocate!
What I find really amusing is that this movie is rated G, so if it's on TV, parents will be sure to see it on in the TV guide and deem it a good family-friendly movie to pawn their kid onto for 90 minutes. Then, soon after, that kid sees that the Inspector Rex show is on in the guide, and asks if he can watch it. The oblivious parents say yes, and the kid is promptly traumatized by what he sees. He might as well be watching If the Dead Could Speak!
Rex is an iconic character, and seeing how he got his start is a nice treat! He's a superintelligent canine with a knack for detection, a tragic history, and an insatiable appetite for ham rolls. Naturally it doesn't take long before Rex starts asserting his trademark dominance over Benny. Did you throw him a ball? It's his ball now! Do you want to watch TV? Too bad, he wants to play. Do you want to get it on with a lady friend? Sorry, but Rex doesn't approve of such free will.
Bennie is a likeable lead, and he's intelligent and resourceful too, though he loses brownie points for his decision to go hiking on his own in an area prone to landslides that he was expressively forbidden to go. He's just lucky that he uncovered nefarious misdeeds. Overall, he's a smart lead, and he even has a mouth on him! That's Germany and Austria for you-You can say 'Shit' in a G rated movie!
Kainz is a very good villain, getting evil moments, as well as plenty of scenes throughout the movie to flesh out his character. The rest of the cast get plenty of screentime, particularly Benny's mother, who gets a subplot of her own.
The acting in Rex: The Early Years is good all round. I think the delivery of the actor playing Benny might be a bit phonetically pronounced sometimes, but I can't tell for sure, given the language barrier. Nothing major though.
Have you ever seen the grim Argentinean crime show Epitafios? Imagine that mixed in with the happy adventures of Rin Tin Tin and you've got yourself an episode of Inspector Rex! If that appeals to you, and if you can find the DVD's at a reasonable price (try online shopping rather than department stores or SBS shops), then I of course highly recommend Inspector Rex, as well as Stockinger, and Rex: The Early Years!...