Benji: Off the Leash! is at once a terrible movie and a terrific public service announcement for the ASPCA. Longtime Benji writer/director Joe Camp clearly would rather shout his anti-animal cruelty messages from a soapbox than craft an entertaining film from his director's chair, and so Leash comes off as a feeble excuse to resurrect a franchise no one was asking for in order to get a decent message out. Its heart may be in the right place, but its home should not be your local multiplex.

After a brief tease about a nationwide search for a new dog to play Benji, Leash skips down to Mississippi where malicious dog breeder Hatchett (Chris Kendrick) is overworking his prize pooch. How do we know Hatchett's evil? Well, beyond his wicked-sounding name, he actually hauls off and tosses one half-breed puppy across a room in an early scene. You can almost hear the boos and hisses from the target audience.

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