Some time before the Beethoven movies took the whole slobbering dog movie concept to mindless levels while, at the same time, making an immortal musical icon synonymous with drool, we got both K-9 and Turner & Hooch the same year.
Produced by Disney, the 1989 film starred Tom Hanks as a neat police investigator stuck with taking care of rambunctious dog Hooch after its owner is suddenly murdered. Turner (Hanks) sets off on a search for the culprits but, first, he has to turn his life upside-down looking after his new slobbering pet. Of course, this leads to several scenes in which the dog destroys every inch of Turner's house much to the cop's horror. Hanks is reliably good as Turner and he elevates a role that, in lesser hands, could have easily fallen flat. Hooch (real name Beasley) is every bit as destructive and messy as you'd expect but the titular characters still bond and the movie makes that relationship convincing. In fact, we spend probably a bit too much time with Turner and Hooch butting heads and barking at each other.
The plot is sidelined very quickly and even the romance with Mare Winningham's veterinarian takes precedent over finding the bad guys, which is a tad frustrating. The police work mostly takes place in the film's third act and, unless you know what you're in for, nothing can prepare you for the downer ending. It's rare that Disney takes a chance on unhappy endings and it's easy to see why as kids and adults alike were probably left feeling pretty crappy when those last 5 minutes kick in. The more emotional moments are handled really well, admittedly, but not even a last minute attempt at a more upbeat denouement can distract you from the gut-punch that came before it. Kudos on Disney for not sugarcoating things for once but man... talk about heartbreaking.
All in all, Turner & Hooch remains arguably the better slobbering dog movie with Hanks delivering a fun, heartfelt performance and Beasley the Dog proving once and for all that looks aren't everything. I'd opt for K-9 instead, however, if the kids want to watch a more harmless, uplifting dog flick.