Directed by Lasse Halleström (My Life as a Dog, Chocolat, Gilbert Grape, Cider House Rules), and starring Richard Gere and Joan Allen (three Oscar nominations), one has to wonder why the film HACHI: A DOG'S TALE was not released theatrically in the US. In other territories, the film did extremely well. Although the reviews in the US were not overwhelming, audience response was great. Yet the film was not released and wound up premiering on the Hallmark channel, a fate worse than death for a feature film. (In fact, Hallmark played it only once!)
The film certainly has problems. It's an adaptation of a true story, but in a very non-real way. The real story takes place in Japan in the 20s, and this version takes place in the US in the recent past. But the basic story, about a dog's love for his man is so wonderful, that I forgive the license they took with the story. The bigger problem is the fact that there really is no second act to the film. There is a long first act and a predictable second act. Nonetheless, if you are an animal lover like me, you will end up a blubbering mess by the end of the film. It's a truly wonderful story, with great performances by both leads. Jason Alexander is also in the film, although miscast in a tiny role as the train station manager.
The real stars of the film are the dogs who play Hachi at various points in his life. The dog is truly emotive throughout the film, a testament to the director's fine work. Jan A.P. Kaczmarek's score also supported the film quite well.
Hachi the dog, is still well known in Japan, in fact, there is still a statue dedicated to him in Tokyo. Hopefully this film will be relased on video soon so that other animal lovers in the US can see it and enjoy the film without the constant commercial interruptions of the Hallmark channel.