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Film / Hounded

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Hounded is a 2001 Disney Channel Original Movie starring Tahj Mowry as Jay Martin, a student attending a private middle school who seeks to obtain a scholarship to a prestigious school, but accidentally kidnaps his corrupt principal's (Ed Begley Jr.) show dog while trying to prove that he helped his lazy son (Shia LaBeouf) cheat to obtain said scholarship, forcing him and his older brother, Mike (Craig Kirkwood) to work together to bring the dog home.

13-year-old Jay Martin (Mowry), a student at Columbus Hall, is competing for a scholarship to the prestigious Donald Peterson Academy so he can study art, with his main competitor being Ronny Van Dusen (LaBeouf), the lazy son of the school's corrupt headmaster, Ward Van Dusen (Begley). With the scholarship being the only one of its kind available, if Jay doesn't obtain it, he will be sent to the all-boys Starkwell Military Academy his older brother, Mike (Kirkwood), attends upstate, where their deceased father had been a former student and teacher. Jay has prepared a presentation that he hopes would help him obtain the scholarship, but his dreams to attend Peterson just might be all for nothing when Ward confiscates his presentation for a petty reason, and then Ronny copies it word-for-word and obtains the scholarship. When Jay brings this up with him, Ward expresses intention to look into it, only for Jay to overhear him telling Ronny to remove any and all evidence that he cheated to protect the family name and reputation.

While the Van Dusens are at the award ceremony, Jay breaks into the pool house of their mansion— which Ronny uses as his bedroom— to steal back his presentation and prove to the judges Ward helped Ronny cheat, but it quickly goes south when Camille, the prized show dog belonging to Ward's wife, Eliza (Rachelle Carson), discovers him and follows him home, and then wreaks havoc in the Martin household when she goes too long without her anti-anxiety medication. Soon enough, when Mike comes home from Starkwell to check on Jay while the boys' mother is out of town taking care of their injured aunt, he becomes involved and in spite of their ongoing rivalry, the two brothers have to work together to get Camille home and give the Van Dusens their just desserts for their corruption.

The movie exhibits the following tropes:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Ronny is this to Jay's friend, Tracy, who he flirts and tries to invite to his pool house, but she rejects him, especially after he cheats in the competition by stealing Jay’s presentation.
  • All Dogs Are Purebred: Camille, being the Van Dusens' prized show dog.
  • Angry Guard Dog: Camille served this role when she found Jay trying to find his stolen presentation in the pool house, then follows him home. Later in the film, as Jay sneaks through the Van Dusens' neighbors' backyards to try to sneak Camille back into the pool house, he is attacked by another dog until he manages to make it through the fence.
  • Babies Ever After: Camille is revealed to be expecting puppies at the end of the film. While Eliza plans to keep most of the puppies, with Ward being forced to move into the pool house due to his allergies while Ronny is away at school, she offers Jay one of them.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: Ward and Ronny Van Dusen.
  • Bookends: For Camille when she was "dognapped". It started with her going into the pool house while Jay snuck in there to find his stolen presentation, then subsequently followed him home, and it ended with her being found in the pool house when the Martin brothers sneak her back in there and frame Ronny for her disappearance.
  • Brick Joke: While giving announcements in the schoolyard, Ward announces that if anyone had the Spanish rice for the previous day they should the nurse if they are feeling "different". Later he advises Ronny to make a better presentation, like Jay’s, he leaves because needs meet with the people in food services because of the Spanish rice predicament, then later reveals to Jay that it spread to the hash browns.
  • Butt-Monkey: Ward, though it is fairly deserved for for his corrupt behavior, gets made a fool out of when trying to get Camille back mostly due the Martin brothers give him false information on Camille to stall for time while looking for her.
  • The Calls Are Coming from Inside the House: Downplayed; the calls are coming from the pool house of the Van Dusens' mansion. While the police are in the main house, Jay and Mike come up with a plan to sneak Camille into the pool house, make the phone call from there, and frame Ronny for her disappearance, planting the voice disguiser they used for further incrimination.
  • Cheaters Never Prosper: Slightly subverted when Ward somewhat inadvertently helps Ronny cheat in the scholarship competition. While he does confiscate Jay's presentation for a petty reason and give it to Ronny for his own use, he never tells Ronny to present it as his own, and instead demands that he use the presentation as an example/reference to come up with a better speech. Unfortunately, Ronny, being lazy, instead copies Jay's presentation word-for-word and presents it ahead of Jay; as such, Jay doesn't give his presentation, as doing so at the current point would make it look like he is the cheater, nor does he attempt to expose Ronny's plagiarism then and there, as he has no proof and it would also make him look like a sore loser. However, by the end of the film, Ward's father-in-law, Armand Columbus, exposes everything, then retakes his old position as headmaster while demoting Ward to secretary and sends Ronny to Starkwell while rightfully awarding Jay the Peterson scholarship.
  • Destroy the Evidence: When Jay tells Ward that Ronny cheated, he tells him he will look into it, at first, but later, Jay overhears him in his office instructing Ronny to remove any and all evidence that he cheated. It seems as though all the evidence had been removed when Jay breaks into the Van Dusens' pool house to recover his presentation while the family is at the award ceremony, only for Camille to find him and follow him home. However, given Ronny's lazy nature and the fact that his grandfather Armand later discovers his cheating, it's possible at least some of the evidence survived.
  • Disappeared Dad: Jay and Mike’s father, who was a former student and teacher at Starkwell, died before the events of the film.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Mike Martin, during his time at Starkwell, rose to the rank of drill sergeant, carrying on the tradition for their late father. Through those years, it caused him and Jay to develop a sibling rivalry, but Camille likely helped the two learn to put aside their differences. At the end of the film, after Ronny is sent to Starkwell as punishment for stealing Jay's presentation and "kidnapping" Camille, Mike becomes Ronny's instructor, and makes it known that he intends to discipline him harder than the other cadets.
  • Evil Is Petty: Ward confiscates Jay's presentation notecards due to being offended that Jay had created a flipbook on the other side of them that portrayed him as a literal wolf in disguise (which is not that far off in actuality). This ends up kicking off the rest of the film's plot.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Ward's father-in-law, Armand Columbus, was this to his son-in-law upon his retirement as headmaster of Columbus Hall. Upon succeeding Armand as headmaster, Ward was all about corruption and nepotism throughout his tenure.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: After years of thriving on corruption, privilege and nepotism, Ward and Ronny Van Dusen both get what they deserve at the end of the film: the Martin brothers frame Ronny for kidnapping and trying to ransom Camille, which prompts Armand Columbus to do some further investigation and subsequently discover the full extent of his son-in-law and grandson's misdeeds, including the latter's theft and plagiarism of Jay's speech and the former's attempted cover up of it. He immediately steps in and takes control by coming out of retirement, taking his former position as headmaster back, and re-opening the scholarship competition. As a result, Ward is demoted to a secretary position and is later forced to move into his mansion's pool house (formerly Ronny's bedroom) after Camille has puppies due to his allergies, while Ronny is stripped of the Peterson scholarship (which is then rightfully awarded to Jay) and sent to Starkwell Military Academy as punishment for his plagiarism and his "kidnapping" of Camille, where he ends up under the command of Jay's brother Mike, who clearly intends to come down on him much harder than the other cadets.
  • Like Father, Like Son:
    • Ward and Ronny Van Dusen: Ronny has inherited the same corrupt behavior his father had possessed over the years, especially when he was named headmaster of Columbus Hall.
      Armand: I'd say the apple doesn't fall very far from the tree, Ward!
    • Jay and Mike's deceased father had been a student and teacher at Starkwell, and while the boys' widowed mother is encouraging Jay to try to obtain the Peterson scholarship, Mike is carrying on the tradition for their father.
  • Nepotism: Ward has embodied this nature throughout his tenure as headmaster of Columbus Hall. When Mike was a student at Columbus, Ward cut him from the baseball team to make room for his nephew, who never even played the sport in his life. Now, with him having enabled Ronny to steal Jay's presentation and cover it up afterwards, the Martin brothers now seek to avenge their family's honor.
  • Phone-Trace Race: After all the hell the Martin brothers put him through to find Camille, Ward is forced to resort to this when he reaches his limit. The brothers quickly catch on to this when it is used on them at first, and then they use this to frame Ronny for Camille's disappearance.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Armand Columbus, Eliza Van Dusen's father and Ronny's maternal grandfather, who formerly served as the headmaster of Columbus Hall before passing over the job to Ward after his retirement. At the end of the film, after he discovers Ward's attempt to cover-up inadvertently helping Ronny cheat to obtain the Peterson scholarship, he comes out of retirement and retakes his former position, demotes Ward to secretary and sends Ronny to Starkwell while rightfully awarding Jay the Peterson scholarship.
  • Time Skip: A short one occurs after the Martin brothers successfully frame Ronny for Camille's disappearance, with the scene cutting to the scholarship competition being redone and Jay giving a new presentation, and being rightfully awarded the Peterson scholarship. It is then revealed over the course of the ending that Armand did further investigation and discovered the full extent of his son-in-law and grandson's actions, and subsequently came out of retirement, retook his former position, demoted the former to secretary and sent the latter to Starkwell.