Backyard Dogs: The Movie!
In the past 100 years, no institution of cultural art has brought together such a wide and diverse group of people as cinema. Moving pictures telling stories of triumph, love and despair have emotionally captivated eclectic audiences worldwide since the most primitive days of Thomas Edison's Kinetoscope, dating back to 1893. In 1895, the Lurniere brothers were the first to present an actual moving picture to a paying audience. By the second decade of the 20th century, several national film industries were established and before long,
Technicolor films were one of the most awe-inspiring innovations that the world had ever seen. Throughout this span of time, many great film producers, actors and directors have come and gone, and when asked, they all claim to share the same universal goal: To bring people together and to make them temporarily forget about their own troubles. These fine men and women of the film industry had obviously never seen "BACKYARD DOGS".
In the year 2000, backyard wrestling was all the rage. Thousands of kids were participating in their own neighborhood promotions, the then World Wrestling Federation's legal team was worried sick about the potential lawsuits pending, and prime time media outlets were licking their chops over the stories of fans of the inherently evil WWF mimicking their favorite stars while unsupervised at home.
Enter Artisan Entertainment, possibly the most hit and (usually) miss film company to ever break into the mainstream. In 1999 Artisan put itself permanently on the map by releasing The Blair Witch Project, which holds to this day the highest Film Gross to Production Costs ratio in the history of cinema. Other hits under the studio include the vastly underrated "Stir of Echoes" and "The Ninth Gate". Unfortunately, for every Blair Witch Project and Stir of Echoes that Artisan has released come about eight horrendous titles such "Grizzly Falls", "Deep In the Woods" and "The Magical Legend of the Leprechauns".
While those movies sucked more than enough to bring Artisan to it's knees, a special movie was needed to deliver a crippling near-death blow. A movie so horrible that it could bring down the entire stock of a company. A movie that, on this date in 2002, Artisan has erased all mentions of from it's website and completely denied any association with when asked by this reviewer via email. A movie so bad that a mere viewing of it's opening montage would be more than adequate in terrifying hundreds of backyard wrestlers into never again lacing up their boo...sneakers. This movie was..."BACKYARD DOGS"!.
Now, immediately upon looking at the packaging for "Backyard Dogs" the first major discrepancy of the film rears its ugly head. Box art, by definition, is designed to excite a potential buyer and give them a visual description of what they is in store for when watching the movie. Using this definition and common sense, who would you assume the flexing young man prominently featured on the front of the box is? A backyard wrestler with high flying moves and even higher aspirations? The despicable rival to the movie's main characters? A backyard legend by which all others are judged? If you answered yes to any of those questions, then you are completely wrong! You see, this ominous looking man who is raised from the background as if to say "this is MY movie" has absolutely NOTHING to do with the film. He never makes a single appearance in the film nor is his central inclusion on the box ever explained. My only hope is that dozens and dozens of buyers didn't purchase this film simply because of this man.
If you'll notice the barely readable tagline on the bottom of the cover, the movie uses about the worst hook ever slapped on a box in good conscious. "For Fame and Fortune...They'll Fight Like Dogs!". I bet they will, I bet they will.
Now the final thing about this box that struck me as odd was a small sticker that Blockbuster had placed on all of videos in the discount bin that I pulled this treasure out of. The small red sticker read as
Now either this promise is a mere formality by the mammoth video rental chain or some Blockbuster CEO actually has so much faith in "Backyard Dogs" that he KNEW I would love every last second of it, but I must lean towards believing in the first option as no one who has sat through even the opening credits of "Backyard Dogs" can go as far as to even guarantee survival of the viewer without feeling a little hesitant.
The opening montage of "Backyard Dogs" more or less sums up the disaster that is to come. In typical Artisan fashion, the film looks as though it were shot on not just a normal handheld camcorder, but the old "family camcorder" that Dad has in the back of the closet covered in a thick layer of dust. The one that takes full sized VHS tapes and 12 D batteries. In addition to the horrible video quality, "Backyard Dogs" boasts one of the most unfathomably bad soundtracks that you will ever hear. As crudely shot scenes of a tricked out yellow 1995 Ford Mustang dangerously passing traffic on a two lane road are flashed, the "Backyard Dogs" title track kicks in. "I'm not just a dog, I'm a dog from the ghetto, front with me...WOOF WOOF WOOF!" is one of the many generic rap lines spouted off before the energy charged chorus kicks in. With metal vocals playing over a weird guitar riff and a hip hop beat, the chorus jumps through our speakers: "BACCCCKYARD DOGGGGS!!!! THEY'RE BACKYYYYYARD DOGGGS!!!". As this music blares, shots of retarded 15 year old kids dropping through tables and hitting each other with folding chairs flashes across the screen. This action is too violent, too intense for the front yard...too treacherous and potentially perilous for the side yard, oh no...this backyard wrestling!
The opening scene of the movie introduces us to two of the main three characters in the film, "Dragon" Lee (Walter Emmanuel Jones) and Kristy James (Bree Turner). Now, I know what you must be thinking to yourself. "These are major names in American entertainment, how could such a low budget movie afford such stars?". Well, as we all know, the former Red Power Ranger and Dancer #4 from Austin Powers 2 don't come cheap, so it's obvious that they probably MUST have taken sizeable pay cuts in order to merely be a part of such a groundbreaking project. Lee and Kristy walk through an alley, around a dumpster and through a chain link fence in order to reach the a small house in the back of a bad neighborhood. As Lee knocks on the gate, he is greeted by an overweight Hispanic man in a referee shirt who slaps him five and asks for the $10 per head admission charge. Lee is a veteran to this scene, but Kristy has little idea what she is getting into as she cautiously enters into the backyard. As the gate swings open, we see a scene straight out of your worst drug induced nightmare. Colorful Christmas lights hang from trees as unsettling carnival music plays in the background and "fans" leap up and down on tiny trampolines while two of the promotions brightest stars battle it out on 6 mattresses combined on the ground to form the shape of a square. In the "ring", a hokey villain by the name of "Captain Death Wish" makes short work of his opponent and begins bantering and shouting "Paperboy! Papppppperboy!". As a spectator who appears to be in an acid induced stupor shines a flashlight towards the roof, the camera pans to reveal the movie's third and final star, Cole Davis (Scott Hamm). Name sound familiar? Well it should as most of America knows Scott Hamm from is cameo as a line-less friend named Allan on an episode of Moesha entitled "Scary Marriage" that originally aired in 1996. As the light shines on Cole, he is standing atop the roof with perfect posture while reading a newspaper and wearing the same pair of pants that he will don in every single scene for the rest of the film. Wearing a shoulder bag that would make Rory Fox green with envy, Cole cuts a lame promo on the despicable Captain Death Wish before leaping off of the roof onto his foe as the circus music continues to play and the kids continue to leap glassy eyed on the tiny trampolines around the "ring". After the heated encounter, Lee introduces Cole to Kristy and the two go on to exchange a passionate glare before saying hello to one another. We, the fortunate viewer, then discover that Cole and Lee are actually part of the "hottest tag team sensation sweeping backyard wrestling", the Backyard Warriors!
Kristy offers her services to the duo as an image manager backslash web promoter for the low cost of 20% of the teams total earnings, which as well know, can be extremely high in the backyard wrestling circuit. Kristy suggests that Cole needs to become more of a rebel and perhaps get a tattoo. Interestingly enough, the "pure" Cole is wearing a bright pink bandana over the top of his right bicep as he tells Kristy that he refuses to get a tattoo. Humorously, the tattoo that he isn't supposed to have yet keeps poking out from beneath the bandana during the scene.
As Lee, Kristy and Cole walk from a diner and as the "high-tech" internet diva ends a call on her giant, oversized, obviously-not-real cell phone, she accidentally steps in a pile of dog droppings, a foul accident that my purchasing of this video could very well be compared to. As Kristy reaches to grab a long, cartoonish stick that is conveniently placed on the roof of Lee's Yellow Mustang, she scrapes the excrement from her shoe as her eyes grow wide. Your new image, "THE BACKYARD DOGS!". "It's like you should be shot, but you're WRESTLING instead" she explains. Lee and Cole seem to like it judging from the large, poorly acted grins that appear on their faces and Kristy changes Cole's name to the outlaw, and to show that the movie is in touch with today's kiddies, she describes him as "covered in ooze, straight from the 'mush' pits". Hmmm.
A full image transformation is now underway as Kristy, with her giant "cell phone", is once again desperately scripted to sound like a technical guru by explaining that she was about to "Put the Backyard Dogs on the 'net and set up hyperlinks". I bet she is. The image transformation is now officially underway as Kristy hires a camera man to follow the team around, obviously using money from the Backyard Dogs highly profitable backyard wrestling misadventures. As this gaping plot hole falls into the bottom of a soon to be overflowing "gaping plot hole sac", we are treated to yet another scene horribly lacking logic. The camera shifts to a scene of a beautiful day where the sun is bright, people are convening on the streets and the traffic is flying by. The camera then shifts to the inside of a trailer where the sun is also penetrating with full midday force as Cole rolls out of bed as his alarm clock goes off at "5:45AM". Excellent guys.
Next, our handsome young heroes find themselves traveling to Fresno to take part in a backyard event in front of 15 people so that they can gather a "large payoff". When they arrive, the are greeted by a fellow by the name of "Snake" who just so happens to be the champion of this backyard promotion, "We have changed our style around a bit Cole" explains Snake, "We are now the KINGS of ETS!". The 'Dogs panic, saying that they don't do ETS. Kristy curiously asks what ETS is as the young tag team look as though they have seen a ghost. "EXTREME TRAMPOLINE WRESTLING". Finally, both sides agree on a trunk match, something that is supposedly a fixture of backyard grapplin'. I'll have to take their word for it. Cole makes short work of Snake by shoving him into the trunk of an old Buick, slamming the thing closed and leaping up and down atop of the trunk while people in the crowd take pictures. Hmmm.
That evening, the under plot of romance begins to further unravel as Cole walks in on Kristy "setting up hyperlinks" and makes a pass at her. Somehow, the analogy of the "jury being out" on Kristy's feelings for Cole comes up, to which Cole replies "What if it's a hung jury...a WELL hung jury?". As the viewer begins to beat his head into the coffee table, Cole walks back to his hotel room (apparently the payoff for the 'Dogs match was so good that they could afford THREE hotel rooms) and opens the door to find Lee giving an airplane spin to a topless Asian girl, a scene that is never really explained.
The next half hour of the movie is much worse than the first portion, something that I wouldn't have though to be possible before coming to the second part. Highlights include a huge backyard showdown between the 'Dogs and a team made up of "Alcatraz" and "Raptor", a thirteen year old kid wrestling in a GIANT dinosaur mask. Small bits of dissention in the ranks seem to emerge as Lee begins acting jealous of the time that Cole and Kristy spend together. The script-writers rip a page out of the "Big Book of Overused Teen Movie Devices" and Lee issues a ONE-THOUSAND DOLLAR bet to Cole that he won't "score" with Kristy because apparently the money is THAT good in backyard wrestling.
The madness continues to unravel as we are taken to a backyard that actually has a very nice ring and see the "promoter" stepping into the ring to cut a promo. In front of no more than seven fans, he challenges Eric Bischoff and Vince McMahon to appear in HIS backyard promotion NEXT WEEK! I wonder how that one turned out. The promoter turns out to be the brother of a head honcho for Frontier Martial Arts Wrestling, the crazy Japanese promotion, and begins hyping the "Backyard Championship", an enormous event where the best backyard wrestlers in the world come. The winner's prize, a live match on PPV with FMW. But let's not get ahead of ourselves, the Dog's opponents this afternoon are none other than "Voodoo Joe" (a Viscera look alike) and "Tony the Mad Skater". Midway through the match, Voodoo Joe stops cooperating and a "shootout" occurs, a term that would be used repeatedly through the duration of the film. Near the end of the encounter, Voodoo beats the tar out of Cole and Lee before the crooked promoter calls the police and informs them of the backyard event. He then summons his prized fighter Voodoo and flees the scene with all of the days money.
It's a new day as the scene shifts to the hilarious "Sawyer Gym", a fenced in square of concrete with one fifteen pound dumbbell, a bench and a jump rope. As other backyard heels pump iron, the crooked promoter is grinning and handing Voodoo "his half" of the event's gate. Now the promoter is handing hundred dollar bill after hundred dollar bill to his star grappler, leading one to believe that each of the seven people in the crowd paid about ONE BILLION dollars each for the privilege of watching such action. But OH NO! Here are the Backyard Dogs, and they wipe the floor with the men training at the Sawyer Gym and force the promoter to give them their money!
"The gang" then retreats to their hotel where Kristy has some great news waiting. Apparently, she has made even more HYPERLINK DEALS as the Dogs are a "huge blast on the net". Even Nash, the evil promoter, admits to be "tracking the dogs on the net". Apparently Kristy has struck up "hyperlink deals" with everyone from "Yahoo to Hotbot (whoever the hell that is)" and ESPN wants to air this interview with the Backyard Dogs LIVE! I bet they do. As the feed goes live and Kristy interviews the grapplin' mutts, she pulls a surprising turn and begins hitting on both of the mat-sport hounds. She claims that she doesn't know which canine to lust after, so she needs the help of the females watching live across the country who are obviously skipping work in hopes that an impromptu Backyard Dogs interview will be "hyperlinked" on "HotBot". She claims she needs women to vote on which member of the tag team she should take on a "Big ol' Date". Now what separates a normal date from a "big ol' date" is up to the discretion of the viewer, but I think it somehow involves oatmeal and a head of cabbage.
This vote is a catalyst for a large deal of tension between man's best friend and man's best friend, who are, ironically, best friends. This play on words must have just been too much for them as the team turn on each other when Kristy reveals that Lee is losing in the dating vote. Lee confesses that he has always been sweet on Kristy and pulls the trump card..."Tell her about the bet Cole!" he says. Raised voices turn to shoving, and before long shoving turns into, you guessed it, a "shootout". I hoped that they would shoot so hard that my VCR would break, but no such luck.
The team splits and decide to go their separate ways, with Miss Elizabeth opting to stay with Cole. The scene back at the ranch is a jovial one, as Nash and Voodoo celebrate the breakup at the lavish mansion that we are led to believe that Nash bought with the large sums of money he makes promoting poorly attended tumbling contests between foolishly dressed teenagers. As Cole walks through the gates of the ranch, he is greeted by Nash and told that he has made the main event of this year's Backyard Championships. "That's GREAT!" screams Cole, "Who am I fighting by the way?". Like clockwork, Lee walks through the gates and cuts a generic promo on Cole, revealing HIMSELF to be his opponent at the BYC's!
Now something strange happens at this point in the film. After only being mentioned once in passing throughout the first 90 minutes of the horrible, horrible film, every scene of the movie from here on out is now littered with FMW signs, banners and any other kind of visual display one could think of. This would lead one to believe one of two things. Either the brilliant director completely forgot that FMW was a major part of the storyline until this point, or the hideous film ran itself
over budget and needed some outside sponsorship to keep hope alive of somehow ending up in discount bins everywhere some day. Either way, we now wee Lee interviewed before his match against Cole, and all he speaks about is how much he loves Hayabusa, a Japanese performer who's name he completely butchers.
Well, the big moment comes and the 'Dogs are ready to explode as both enter the ring at the "Backyard Championship". Now one would think an event like the "Backyard Championships" would take plans in front of more than eleven people and that the fan base wouldn't be 40-something year old men in twill hats, but again I'm no expert on the topic at hand. Well those darn Dogs lock up in the middle of the ring and find themselves with yet another problem, they don't want to hit each other. Now the fact that they are unable to "hit" each other kind of counteracts the way that the rest of the movie built the matches at fake, but the bout could have been announced as a "shootout" and I could have very well missed that huge announcement while I was eying the skull and crossbones adorned bottle on my desk labeled "POISON". The men stood confused in the ring until the reunion was interrupted yet again by Voodoo Joe (making his 47th wrestling appearance in the film) and another man whom he was training with at the Sawyer Gym. After a legit SHOOTOUT, the Backyard Dogs came out on top and the team was now reunited and stronger than ever. The sweat drenched hounds didn't have very much time to celebrate before Nash informed him that his brother had just offered them a spot on the big FMW pay-per-view!
The next day, the Backyard Dogs were fully recuperated and were met by a long black limo. As the door swung open, Parker Nash ("famous" FMW promoter) stepped out and greeted his newest talent. "You boys should be proud, you are the first backyard wrestlers ever hired by the big guys". While the duo was flattered, Lee astutely corrected Parker and informed him that "Mick Foley was hired by the WWF after they saw a video of him jumping off of his roof", a statement that made me realize that the researching budget for the movie must have been just a hair lower than the $3.52 that I had previously estimated.
Mr. Nash then invited Lee and Cole into his limo with him to take a ride. As Lee and Cole enter the limo, they see none other than HAYABUSA who apparently always travels in costume. Lee, who spent a good 45 seconds babbling about how Hayabusa was his hero earlier in the film, acted as though he had no clue who the man was until he was introduced. "Would you like to see some of Hayabusa's newest footage?" asked Parker as he pulled a video out of his jacket labeled "New Hayabusa Footage". As he popped it into the VCR and my entire screen switched to the footage, my previous suspicions in regards to who exactly bankrolled this monstrosity became a little more clear. As it turns out, Hayabusa was in almost none of the 45 seconds of FMW clips with a rockin' soundtrack that we were treated to, but the good news is that these 45 seconds were the only redeemable part of the movie up to this point.
The next scene takes us back to the ring that the backyard championships were held at as Hayabusa intends to teach the whippersnappers some skills that will help them in their match against Krazy Casey, a notorious brawler. Hayabusa informs the lads that he is afraid the match could very well turn into...drum roll please...a shootout, so the team needs to learn a few moves that will serve to protect them against their dangerous opponent. As Parker Nash, Lee and Cole stand in the ring, Hayabusa enters the grass lawn wearing what appears to be a rooster mask with a matching rooster suit. He flips into the ring as Cole, Nash and Lee awkwardly clap as though they are wondering how this fits into the plot at all. Hayabusa then climbs to the top rope and does a corkscrew plancha of some sort on to an air mattress conveniently placed in the ring. Once again, the men politely applaud. Finally, Hayabusa run the ropes, does a Lionsault and lands on his feet. The three actors look confused and applaud bizarrely as the pointless scene ends.
Which brings us to this, the final scene. The culmination of DAYS of brutal backyard action for the 'Dogs and the light at the end of the tunnel for those of us who forced ourselves to sit through this garbage in order to better inform and entertain our readers. The location: A parking lot surrounded by a dozen burning barrels. The event: FMW Wrestling on PAY PER VIEW! The attendance: Nine.
The 'Dogs made their entrance first with the beautiful Kristy, hitting the ring to take on Krazy Casey and a mystery partner. Krazy hits the ring and cuts one of the worst promos you will EVER hear, calling Lee and Cole "Sugarbritches and Stick Boy" and stating that come the end of this match, they will be DEAD DOGS. The camera then cuts to an extreme close up of Casey's face as he says, and I quote, "BWAAAAHHHHAAAAAAAA". His partner? You guessed it, Voodoo Joe, now making his 81st wrestling appearance in the film. You premise of the match? A SHOOTOUT!
Now I don't know if Scott Keith rates psuedo-backyard shootouts, but if he did I think this one could possibly find a way to sink below the fabled "DUD" status that has always been considered rock bottom. The action is horrible, the acting is horrible, the cuts between angles are horrible the acting is slightly worse than horrible. The match ends when Cole hits a huge splash that he used to use as "The Paperboy", symbolizing his return to the squeaky clean personality that he had before he met Kristy. As Kristy enters the ring and the 'Dogs celebrate, Kristy tells Cole that she loves him, kisses him and the movie thankfully ends.
Now I have seen some bad movies in my day, but "Backyard Dogs" is right up there with the very, VERY worst of them. The fact that Artisan will not even admit to making the film really sums up how truly horrible of a cinematic experience this is. The camera work in the film was amateur at best with some of the worst cuts and lowest quality picture I have seen in DVD form. During many scenes, odd effects such as blurred focus and odd coloring are used for long periods at a time with no relevant reason besides to play with the camera. The acting is best described as "just good enough to make one wonder what these people are doing in such a ridiculous movie". The soundtrack will have you cupping your ears and weeping and the "Wrestling" is some of the worst that you are ever going to see.
The movie is full of plot holes and the box completely misleads the potential buyer into thinking that the movie is indeed a REAL documentary about backyard wrestling as the fine line between clever marketing (Blair Witch as a documentary) and false advertising is leaped over. At least a documentary on backyard wrestling would have offered a few cheap belly-laughs at out of shape retarded kids wrestling in pajamas, lighting themselves on fire and feverishly sending their tapes to "Vance MacMoon" wondering when their contracts will be rush delivered to them.
I REALLY tried to find something positive to say about this movie, but once you get past the 0sunfire2
point that Kristy is moderately attractive, you are left with absolutely nothing of value. I think that the opinions reflected by the
Internet Movie Data Base can really best put into perspective how painful this movie is to watch. Now normally, most folks will give a moderately bad movie the worst possible rating because it's so fun to be negative, but IMDB is extremely unbiased and will give movies honest and usually pretty accurate ratings. A quick search shows that IMDB gave Mr. Nanny, No Holds Barred and Suburban Commando all ratings right around the 3.0 (out of 10) range, with two above and one slightly below. With that said, Backyard Dogs received a 1.0 rating from the website. That's right, according to the site Mr. Nanny was about THREE TIMES better than "Backyard Dogs". If that doesn't scare you into running like the wind if you ever so much as see the box for this film, I don't know what will. PLEASE do me a favor and never, ever even consider buying this film. It's not a movie that is so bad that you can laugh at it, it's a movie so bad that it makes you want to ask a responsible friend to beat you over the head with a mallet until JUST after you have lost consciousness.
Final Grade: F-
Copyright © 2005 Derek Burgan. All rights reserved.