Opinion, Reviews

The Trial of Old Drum (A Movie Loosely Based on a True Story)

Did you know there was a movie made about the Old Drum trial in Warrensburg, Missouri… no. Well, do you still want to read a review about it? If you’re still reading this, then I guess your answer was ‘yes.’

Released in 2000, “The Trial of Old Drum” was a made-for-TV family movie that premiered on Animal Planet. “Animal Planet’s First original movie,” according to TV Guide. The story is loosely based on the real-life trial of the dog, Old Drum.

In 1869, Old Drum was a hunting dog that was shot by a farmer after wandering on his property, the farmer had assumed the dog was trying to kill his sheep. Angered, Old Drum’s owner filed a lawsuit against the farmer. The court case ended with Old Drum’s owner winning the case and as a result, the term “man’s best friend” was born. The Old Drum case is very important to the locals of Warrensburg.

It is such a big deal that many Warrensburg locals hate the TV movie “The Trial of Old Drum.” For example, a local resident and Old Drum reenactor was asked what he thought of this movie, he replied with only two words… “It’s terrible.”

The main reason for this might be because the real history of Old Drum is tossed aside. The trial of Old Drum itself took place in 1869. This movie takes places in the 1950s. So they were a little off on the dates – by almost 100 years.

And in this version, Old Drum lives – really, come on. Not only does Drum live, but he doesn’t get shot until almost an hour into the story which says something since the movie is roughly an hour and a half long. The rest of the runtime is filled with him and his little boy owner, Charlie, going on misadventures – which I guarantee did not happen.

Also, Old Drum was a Foxhound, not a Golden Retriever. Now why his breed changed to a Golden Retriever, I don’t know. Maybe it’s because of the success of another family movie with a Golden Retriever, “Air Bud.” Also, the original “Air Bud” came out three years before this film.

When it comes to movies about a historic event, I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt when they change those historical events. But in the case of “Old Drum,” this is going too far – loosely based on a true story might be giving the movie too much credit.

Of course, most movies about historical events actually don’t tend to stay completely true to the real-life events, such as “Braveheart.” But “Braveheart” is still a good movie.

Now is “The trial of Old Drum” a good movie if one doesn’t consider the actual history of Old Drum… no. This movie is still pretty bad. It may have been made-for-TV, but I don’t feel like giving it any slack.

The acting isn’t the best. I hate to bash child actors, but some of their performances are pretty bad. Then again, the adult actors aren’t great either. There are some relatively famous actors in this movie too, Ron Perlman for example.

I know this was before he found success on the big and small screen, but still, what the “Hellboy” was he doing here – sorry, I had to make that joke. I will admit, I can tell some of these actors are trying their best; but with a badly-written script, they can’t do that much.

“The trial of Old Drum” may be an “Air Bud” rip off, but it also may be a rip-off of “Old Yeller.” It features a heroic dog who has to constantly save his kid owner every five minutes. Seriously, Old Drum has to save Charlie from a bully; a Rattlesnake; drowning; a pack of wild dogs; and all before Drum gets shot. Maybe Charlie should stay inside for a while. Like “Old Yeller,” the landscape is filled with prairies and rolling hills found in the American West – not Missouri, of course.

It’s not hard to tell that Animal Planet was behind “The Trial on Old Drum;” this movie does try to convey the message that “animals aren’t bad, humans are.” However, this message is contradicted by animals seen onscreen. Charlie gets attacked by an “evil” rattlesnake and “evil” pack of wild dogs, even though the movie says ‘animals aren’t bad.”

To make matters worse, there is some violence against animals as well. Trying to hunt and kill wild dogs is a major plotline, despite a loveable dog being the main focus of the movie. This is also ironic because of what actually happened to Old Drum.

In addition, after Old Drum gets into a fight with the wild dogs, the movie cuts to show the dead bodies of the wild dogs – because it’s “a family picture” as Nostalgia Critic would say.

After the fight, Old Drum is severely injured and almost dies. But there is no real suspense if he will really die because he has to almost die later from his gunshot wound.

Honestly, I have more criticism for the movie – but to keep this article for being too long – here’s my last complaint: the special effects are laughably unconvincing. It doesn’t take a genius to tell that the blood used is completely fake, it looks like ketchup – I’ve been a part of short films with fake blood that looked far better.

To be fair, I might’ve been less harsh had this movie not been about Old Drum as I’ve lived in Warrensburg for many years. But with that in mind, this movie is just bad overall. It’s not the worst thing ever made, but it’s still a bad movie. The writing is bad, some of the acting is bad, and the story is generic. It tries to have this theme about life in the good old 50s, and it comes off as cliché and cheesy

. Animal Planet’s first original movie was a poor effort. I wouldn’t compare “The Trial of Old Drum” to “Air Bud,” I would compare it to one of the “Air Buddies” movies instead, because they are practically the same in quality.

Also, special thanks to Assistant Editor Garret Fuller for providing the “Air Bud” conspiracy.

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