In the miss-matched, odd-couple world of the buddy cop movie you need a clash of characters, a reluctance to work together, a certain animosity between partners that is gradually transformed into huge respect, deep friendship and even love. And what better way to achieve this than by pairing your detective with a dog?
That’s what the makers of 1989 cop comedy K-9 did when they cast James Belushi opposite a German Shepherd Dog.
Belushi plays San Diego narcotics detective Mike Dooley, whose pursuit of drug baron Ken Lyman has led to attempts on his life. Dooley is given a police dog named Jerry Lee, which is trained as a drug-sniffer, to help protect him. Dooley has never worked with a dog before, and the beautiful Jerry Lee is both intelligent and independent. So of course, he and Dooley start out hating each other, with Jerry Lee proving a destructive, interfering pain in Dooley’s backside.
It’s a fairly standard formula for a cop comedy, and the film was released to mixed reviews. But for me, the strength of the two leading actors – Belushi and the dog – makes K-9 a very special film. Belushi’s comic timing is perfect, and Jerry Lee has an expressive star quality that matches his co-star’s abilities. There’s a real chemistry between the pair that’s expressed in words by Dooley, and in expressions by Jerry Lee.
I can’t tell you much more because I don’t want to spoil the film for you. But watch this clip from K-9 to see some of the tussling between the two characters.
Next time: another famous German Shepherd Dog.