September 02, 1991 12:00 PM

Bingo, Robert J. Steinmiller Jr.

Lovable, rascally, unappreciated waif foils sort-of-likable crooks: Call it In the Doghouse Alone.

Mostly, Bingo is a typical movie mutt. But at times director Matthews Robbins and writer Jim Strain get inspired, and Bingo gets appealingly whacked out, as vulnerable as Bill Murray in hangdog mode, as resourceful as David Janssen in The Fugitive.

Bingo knows Morse code, dials phones and seduces a spaniel with champagne. The movie also explores the canine subconscious: a traumatic event from Bingo’s puppyhood.

Steinmiller is a boy who adopts Bingo. Among the film’s happy traits is its shameless overstatement. The boy’s dad, David Rasche, is a pro football placekicker so fanatical about his team that everything he owns—down to Denver Broncos wallpaper in his bathroom—proclaims his allegiance.

As the armored car—robbing crooks, Kurt Fuller and Joe Guzaldo are enjoy-ably extravagant too. Fuller wants to sign a pro-whale petition, and when Guzaldo reminds him that they are felons and can’t vote, Fuller gets indignant: “That doesn’t mean we can’t contribute in other ways.”

Bingo never succumbs to animal film earnestness. And other than a variation on Chinese water torture—people singing the “Bingo was his name-oh” song—it is an easy-to-take shaggy-dog story. If it doesn’t have much of an ending—or a beginning or middle—it goes by pleasantly. (PG)

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