After watching a recorded Stephen King University talk in Massachusetts, the book Cujo was mentioned and I felt inclined to give the short 1983 film adaptation a look. For the Canadians here, this was the story that prompted the nickname of long time Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Curtis Joseph. Its relevance in modern culture, however, stops there. It’s short, just under an hour and a half, which might have made it a refreshing break from some of the marathons that are King films, but in fact this was a film where they would have been better off burning the script and starting from scratch.
I’m not going to concern myself with spoiler in this review, because just about everyone has a basic notion of what Cujo is about. A massive Saint Bernard wreaks havoc on the locals of a small town after having been bitten by a rabid bat. The dog is actually the best actor in the film. And unlike in The Green Mile, that isn’t a compliment.
There are a number of things you look for in a book or film that might make it an enjoyable experience. You start by developing dynamic and multi-layered characters, ideally with just enough uniformity in their actions to have the audience go “oh that ___” when they do something familiar. You need a good plot, as the story is the bread which holds all of the sandwich together. Finally, you need solid pacing with building climaxes. Cujo, unfortunately does a poor job in each of these crucial areas.
The characters are poorly defined and played very safe. Although the preliminary story takes up about two-thirds of the entire run time, all it amounts to is a very basic and unimaginative tale of an affair and a betrayal of trust within an otherwise perfect marriage. Because of how tired this type of script has become, this does little to get the viewer involved with the characters in any way. It doesn’t help that the acting is profoundly mediocre, from the grunting “stud” of the neighborhood to the ubiquitous screaming and crying of the young child.
The plot didn’t get much better after the eternal affair story (Which served little more purpose than an explanation of the placement of the characters at the time of the attack,) and the last half hour of run time is spent following the wife and child trying fruitlessly (And repetitively) to leave a car with an angry Cujo waiting just outside. Don’t wait for an unexpected turn, or for any of the details which were laid out so painfully slowly in the opening hour to actually have relevance, because they won’t. In the end, it’s a half-assed movie, which received half-ass movie reviews. In the midst of a Stephan King movie marathon, this flick deserves to get yanked off the stage.