Tom Hanks recently received the Cecil B. DeMille award at the Golden Globes for his work in film. The actor also scored an Oscar nomination this year for his portrayal of Fred Rogers in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. With multiple awards, and a career that spans nearly every genre of film, Tom Hanks has a vast library of roles including the first film produced by Touchstone, Splash. For this week’s edition of “Touchstone and Beyond” it’s time to look at the 1989 hit film Turner & Hooch.

The Movie

Scott Turner, played by Tom Hanks, is a neat and orderly guy. From the moment the film starts we see Turner actively cleaning his fridge for a small mustard spill. He fastidiously flosses his teeth, trims his nose hairs, and keeps a clean home. He is also moving to a new job far away from Cypress Beach the sleepy little California town where he is a police investigator. Even in the middle of packing up and moving, Scott manages to keep a clean home.

Plans change when two events happen in Cypress Beach. Thousands of dollars wash up on shore, and the murder of a local recluse. Even worse for Scott, he knew the victim, Amos, and now must investigate the case with his partner, David Sutton, played by Reginald VelJohnson, who will take over Turner’s role when he leaves in a few days.

To make matters worse, Turner must look after Amos’ dog Hooch. Hooch witnessed the crime and Turner is going to use some unconventional methods to try and solve the case. Thanks to Hooch, Turner meets the town vet, Emily Carson, played by Mare Winningham and they bond over their love of dogs, and Turner’s inability to deal with Hooch.

Amos always complained about unusual things happening at the fish plant next to his home. No one took Amos seriously, but Turner through his investigation skills and Hooch’s chasing of the murderer, stakes out the plant. An official search shows nothing, but after tracking down the murderer Zack Gregory, played by Scott Paulin, Turner learns the truth about what is going on.

A gun battle in the fish plant with Turner and Hooch and the deceitful police Chief Hyde, played by Craig T. Nelson, leaves Turner standing tall, and Hooch mortally wounded. The movie ends with Turner finding love with Emily, a baby on the way, a new job for Turner in Cypress Beach, and numerous puppies including one that looks like Hooch, who has destroyed their home.    

The Best

The interaction between Hanks and the dog that plays Hooch, Beasley is the highlight of the film. They are two very opposite creatures, and seeing how Turner who is organized and clean, brings in this foul-smelling dirty dog that destroys the order to Turner’s home is fun, but also says a lot about Turner himself.

Scott Turner is only focused on the rules and order. He never takes time for himself. This is a man who is compulsive about his behavior and its Hooch that makes him a better person. Hooch is an atomic bomb to the life of Turner, and Turner gradually comes to love the dog. This makes the end scene when Hooch dies even more powerful, because we see the change in Turner thanks to Hooch.

Following the death of Hooch, we see a Turner that is still neat and organized but he shifts into a new role. He becomes the chief of police for the town, his trainee, David, is a full-fledged investigator who cracks a major theft case, and the loneliness of Turner’s quiet sterile home is changed for a raucous noise of multiple dogs, and a baby on the way.

The film also has a major tone shift in the story. For the most part except for Amos’ murder, it’s a family-friendly comedy about two mismatched characters, Turner and Hooch. As Turner delves into the case, chasing suspect Zack Gregory to the Lazy Acres Hotel, Turner and the film change. He transforms into a scruffy looking detective who pulls his gun immediately on the hotel clerk and fires it into the wall to get some answers. The Scott Turner from the start of the film wouldn’t do that.

It makes me think this tone shift was meant for a couple of reasons, bring resolution to the story, but also prove to the audience that an investigator who looks like an average guy, is still a cop and can solve the crime.

The Worst

The scene where Turner bathes Hooch has the same soundtrack as when Turner and Hooch chase Zack Gregory. One scene is a delightful funny piece of the battle of wills between man and dog, while the other is a serious chase through the downtown of a killer. There should be something different for this chase. The background music makes me think that chasing a murderer is something that is light-hearted and fun.

Turner drives Hooch away from the crime scene by holding on to one of the restraining arms used by animal control while driving his car to the vet. This scene of a man in a car driving a dog around town would not fly in today’s film world.

Fun Facts

  • Dudley Moore turned down the role of Scott Turner.
  • Henry Winkler was the original director but was fired after a couple of weeks by Disney studio head Jeffrey Katzenberg. He was dissatisfied with Winkler’s work. Winkler maintains that he got along better with Hooch then he did with Turner.
  • A pilot for a television version of Turner & Hooch was filmed with Thomas F. Wilson of Back to the Future fame was filmed and aired on the Magical World of Disney but didn’t get picked up for a series order.
  • Tim Allen had been approached to star in the television version of Turner & Hooch but turned it down to do something more original. Home Improvement was born.
  • Hanks’ dialogue about Hooch eating the car was the test dialogue used in the creation of Toy Story to convince the actor to take the part of Sherriff Woody.
  • Hooch is French dog breed called Dogue de Bordeaux.
  • The scene where Hooch died was the last scene filmed with Hanks and Beasley the dog. Hanks used the bonding he had developed with the dog to bring his emotions to forefront for the scene.
  • An alternate ending was created where Hooch lived, but test audiences didn’t have much of a difference on their ratings for either ending, so the original idea of killing the dog was kept.
  • Tom Hanks has stated that he actively campaigned for Hooch to die in the film.
  • A Turner & Hooch series is in early development at Disney+.

See It/Skip It?

I am very neutral on this film. I remember seeing it at the theatres when I was 9, but after re-watching it, I was left with having little emotion either positive or negative for the film. Hanks is great, and Beasley is a perfect partner for the neurotic Turner, but when the film stopped, I didn’t think anything more about the story.

It was a box office hit on a modest budget which is what Touchstone excelled at in the 1980’s. Turner & Hooch is not a good film or a bad film, it’s just simply a movie that is available to watch on Disney +. If you have the time check it out and form your own opinion because I can’t recommend or discourage it.  

Director: Roger Spottiswoode

Production Company: Touchstone Pictures

Principal Cast:

  • Tom Hanks as Scott Turner
  • Reginald VelJohnson as David Sutton
  • Craig T. Nelson as Chief Hyde
  • Mare Winningham as Emily Carson

Release Date: July 28, 1989

Budget: 13 million  

Box Office Gross Domestic = $71,079,915