“Agent Toby Barks” (2020): Oh god, I… I think I’m going to be sick

“This is the treason of the artist; a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain.” – Ursula K. Le Guin


Dog actor Good-Beasley in “Agent Toby Barks”. Image Courtesy of IMDb.

Max Vetter, Entertainment Reporter

If one decides to delve deeper and deeper into the darkest depths of filth that film is capable of, it’s inevitable that they’ll eventually come upon something truly unsettling. A sight so bizarre that it confounds even the most seasoned of film archeologists. Its malformed appendages reach out to entangle you in a malignant bout of primal hatred, seeking to unleash its most heinous carnal desires upon your poor psyche from the inside out. I’ve discovered one such film, and its slimy claw has punctured my soul, dragging me deeper and deeper into hell from whence it came. That film is “Agent Toby Barks”.

“Agent Toby Barks” is about something. It’s about a secret agent dog, if the poster and title is to be believed, but it focuses more on a motherless family, their aunt, and a secret agent organization. It feels wrong on just about every level. The writing is horrible, the acting is wooden at best and uncomfortably bad at worst, and the presentation ranges from boring to nauseating. Every cliche in the book is hurled into the script with a reckless disregard for why those cliches exist. Oh, you want to have a secret agent life at night and a family night at day? Great, but you need the story to be about the secret agent. You want to have a story about a dad getting a promotion from his boss? Great, devote some screen time to that. This is the first real script this writer has ever written, and it’s obvious. The screenplay is, in a word, sloppy. Sloppy in a way that my first screenplay was. Which is fine if you aren’t actually trying to get this thing produced. But that’s the thing, this movie was made!

Apart from the horrendous script work, every other aspect of the movie is abysmal, most notably the visuals. The camera moves in ways that almost prompt motion sickness at times, and never takes into account even basic composition. It’s clear they couldn’t get their dog to do any real tricks, which clearly made filming action difficult. Whenever you need an exciting scene of Toby Barks taking down a bad guy, all you get is three shaky shots of the dog, then the person the dog should be jumping on, then an extra shaky shot of the dog clearly playing with his target. Along with the frames, the editing is so odd and stilted that it verges on avant-garde, which adds to the perpetual confusion of watching this beast.

With all that said, I implore you to go watch this movie. But not by yourself, that’d be a horrible mistake. This movie is mind-numbingly bad and confusing in ways I’ve rarely ever seen, and I think the only way you could enjoy it is with friends. And this is a great opportunity, too! Functionally no one has seen this movie, so watching this with a group of people raring for a bad movie would be hilarious and surprising. Pound for pound, “Agent Toby Barks” is probably the worst movie of the year so far, but it’s not insulting. For a movie so horrible, it’s not morally reprehensible, which makes it the perfect candidate for ironic viewing with friends. Please go see it, it’s an experience.