He’s got the number one show on television (starring Cynthia Rothrock, An Eye For An Eye; and Paul Logan (Sniper: Special Ops) and millions of adoring fans think he doesn’t have a care in the world. But the truth is, poor Murphy (YouTube’s “Just Jesse the Jack”) doesn’t have a friend in the world! True, he gets top billing on his weekly TV series ‘Doggie 911,’ but the old Hollywood adage – ‘It’s lonely at the top’ – certainly applies to this canine super-star. Then one day, fate steps in and some young fans (Sydney Thackray, Walker Mintz) accidentally let the little guy loose. The grateful pooch follows the kids home and they agree to hide him.
Meanwhile, the studio boss (Shadoe Stevens, The Late Late Show) has offered a big reward for his safe return, so the local sheriff (Michael Paré, (The Infiltrator) and some unscrupulous ‘agency men’ (Jaret Sacrey, Freddy James) are determined to track the dog down at all costs. So now, with dark forces closing in from all sides, can the kids save the dog, and can a lesson be taught the studio to be good to the hand that feeds them? Wagging his little tail with confidence, Murphy firmly believes he’s up to the task.
Just in time for Easter — Scrat and his Ice Age friends have a new adventure with a hunt for an egg, Ice Age: The Great Egg-scapade. Just 20 minutes long, it is a delightful family treat.
Harried prehistoric bird mom Ethel entrusts her precious, soon-to-hatch egg to Sid. When she recommends him to her neighbors – Condor Mom, Cholly Bear and Gladys Glypto – business booms at his new egg-sitting service. However, dastardly pirate bunny Squint, who is seeking revenge on the ICE AGE gang, steals, camouflages and hides all the eggs. Once again, with Squint’s twin brother, Clint, assisting Manny, Diego and the rest of the gang come to the rescue and take off on a daring mission that turns into the world’s first Easter egg hunt.
I have a copy to give away! Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with Egg in the subject line and tell me your favorite animated film. Don’t forget your address! (U.S. addresses only). I’ll pick a winner at random on March 29, 2017. Good luck!
Action-style cartoon peril, chases, predators, no one hurt
A metaphorical theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters:
February 24, 2017
The second movie in three months featuring cartoon animals singing pop songs is “Rock Dog,” based on a Chinese graphic novel.
Luke Wilson provides the voice for Bodi, a sheepdog in Tibet, raised by his martinet father Khampa (J.K. Simmons). Bodi is never able to muster the “Kung Fu Panda” style mystic power his father tries to teach him as a part of the elaborate defense system he has put in place to protect the sheep from the Mafia-type wolves (led by Lewis Black as Linnux). At one time the community had two passions, making music and making wool. But after an attack by wolves, the instruments have all been locked away so that there will be no distractions from civil defense.
When a radio literally drops from the sky (an airplane loses some of its cargo), Bodi realizes his true purpose. He is not a watchdog — he is a musician.
Inspired by the music of rock star Angus Scattergood (Eddie Izzard), he decides to leave the mountain to follow in his footsteps: he will find a band in the legendary Rock ‘n’ Roll Park and play music no matter who tries to stop him. “Play your guts out and never stop, even when your dad tells you to stop, don’t stop.” He realizes that this is “the answer to my life,” and soon he is making music for delighted new fans.
Khampa reluctantly agrees to let Bodi go, but makes him promise he will return if he does not succeed. In the big city, he finds the Rock ‘n’ Roll Park, where he encounters a bully (Matt Dillon) who sends him to Scattergood’s booby-trapped fortress of a house as a prank.
Scattergood is desperately trying to come up with the new song his record label is demanding, but he is so isolated that he has run out of ideas, like Dana Carvey playing “Choppin’ Broccoli.”
There are some charming details (the sheep’s pub is called the Warp and Weft and serves shots of wheatgrass), and its international production team is reflected in its settings, like the Japan-inspired Rock ‘n’ Roll park, where Bodi and the bully have a shred-off. Bodi is a likeable hero and it is fun to see his cheery optimism paired with the burned-out, cynical Angus. Like the music they create, it is pleasantly entertaining.
Parents should know that this movie has cartoon action-style peril and violence, including predators, chases, fire, and some pratfalls, although no one is hurt. There is also some schoolyard language.
Family discussion: Why was it so hard for Angus to write a song? Why did he think he did not want to see anyone? How did Bodi know that music was his destiny?
The doesthedogdie website helpfully lets us know what some people consider the most important deciding factor in selecting a film. They — and their visitors — will have a tough time with this one because in one sense there are at least three dogs who die in this film but in another the whole point of the movie is that dogs do not really die; there are doggy spirits that go on from dog to dog, learning how to be more devoted, more loving, more helpful. So yes, there are some tough moments for both the human and canine characters in this film. I cried just watching the trailer. But on the other hand, there are gorgeous and adorable dogs. Even better, there are puppies.
“A Dog’s Purpose,” based on the best-selling book by W. Bruce Cameron is an unabashed love letter to dogs and the humans who are lucky enough to be loved by them. Yes, it is sugary and sentimental, but so is the devotion dogs and people have to each other. These are not cats like Garfield, who often scorn us and bestow their favors sparingly, or an “Every Which Way But Loose” orangutan who can outwit us. These are dogs who have nothing but time to play with us or comfort us and are always overjoyed to see us.
Bailey, voiced by Josh Gad of “Frozen,” is born (puppies), then quickly caught by animal control and (subtly) killed. Then, he is born again, and adopted by a boy named Ethan. Bailey is curious about the world and his place in it. Much of the gentle humor of the film comes from Bailey’s efforts to understand human behavior, and much of the sweetness comes from his realization that his purpose is to love, to help, and to remind humans of something important they tend to forget and dogs are very good at — to appreciate this exact moment, to inhabit it fully.
Bailey and Ethan adore one another, happy to play together all day. Bailey gets up to the usual dog mischief, but the real problem in the family is when Ethan’s dad becomes depressed, begins to abuse alcohol, and becomes abusive. By that time, Ethan is a teenager, in love with Hannah (Britt Robertson), and being recruited for football scholarships to college. But things go wrong for Ethan, and Bailey gets old and tired…and is reborn as Ellie, a K-9 dog partnered with Carlos (John Ortiz), and then as a corgi adopted by a lonely student (Kirby Howell-Baptiste), and then as a neglected dog abandoned by his owner’s boyfriend.
There’s nothing subtle, surprising, or sophisticated about this story, which is as chewed over as a dog’s favorite bedroom slipper. But audiences will be won over by the unabashed affection for its subject and funny-only-after-the-fact incidents that will be only too familiar to anyone who has ever lived with a dog. Its belief in the deep connection between humans and the devoted dogs in their lives — and did I mention the puppies? — help it connect to us as well.
NOTE: The release of some leaked behind-the-scenes footage appeared to show one of the dogs being mistreated by a handler in order to get him to do a stunt. The producer of the film has made a detailed statement about the incident, accepting responsibility for some mistakes but also making it clear that the leaked footage was edited to distort what happened. Anyone concerned about the treatment of the dogs on the film should read his statement in its entirety.
Parents should know that this film has tense, sad, and dangerous situations including very sad deaths of beloved pets and character injured, alcohol abuse, depression, domestic abuse, neglect of animal, fire, law enforcement violence including kidnapping, shoot-outs, and rescue, some potty humor, and some disturbing images.
Family discussion: What do you think a dog’s purpose is? How is it different from a human’s purpose?
If you like this, try: The book by W. Bruce Cameron and the movies “My Dog Skip,” “Marley & Me,” and “The Three Lives of Thomasina”
The animation is quite good in “The Wild Life,” with exceptional use of space designed to make the best use of 3D and cleverly constructed mechanics. But the voice talent is poor, the characters are dull, and the story and script start out badly and go downhill from there.
It is inspired by but bears little relation to the classic shipwreck story Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe, memorably illustrated by the great N.C. Wyeth (father of Andrew). But in this version there is no Man Friday. Instead it is, for no particular reason, told as a flashback from the perspective of the animals on the island, including a pangolin, a hedgehog, a tapir, and a parrot named Mak, later dubbed “Tuesday” by Crusoe.
The movie begins with pirates seeing what they think is a signal flame on a remote island. The captain sends his men to check it out and bring back anything of value. They capture Crusoe, and Tuesday settles in with some friendly mice on the ship to tell them the story from the beginning.
We meet Crusoe and his dog Ainsley onboard La Luna. They are novices at sea travel and looked down upon by the seasoned sailors. Crusoe does a lot of looking down, too, at the ocean, as he barfs into it. Also on board are two scraggly cats with Cockney accents, the scheming May and henchman Mal (Debi Tinsley and Jeff Doucette). A storm destroys the ship and Crusoe and Ainsley are trapped when the sailors depart in the lifeboat. The ship crashes on the shore of a tiny uninhabited island. Well, uninhabited by humans. The animals live in a predator-free paradise, with daily luaus, and they are all very happy except for Mak the parrot, who dreams of finding something exciting and different.
Crusoe, Ainsley, and the splintered remains of the ship are thrilling for Mak but terrifying for the other animals. Eventually Crusoe gains Mak/Tuesday’s trust and the animals begin to make friends with him, helping him to build a treehouse complete with running freshwater. But May and Mal, briefly stuck on an adjacent rock and soon accompanied by a litter, are determined to return to the island and pretty much eat and/or destroy everything and everyone.
Illuminata had the same mix of exceptional animation technique and underwritten story in “Fly Me to the Moon.” I wrote in my review, “Unfortunately, the dull characters and weak story keep getting in the way of the gorgeously produced backgrounds.” My strong recommendation for their next film is that they try to find writers and performers as capable as their visual artists.
Parents should know that this film includes a scary shipwreck, mean cats, pirates, guns, and fire, characters drink alcohol and there is a sad offscreen death of a character.
Family discussion: Why is Mak the only one on the island who is curious about the rest of the world? Why did Mal do what May said? How can you tell the difference between a coincidence and a bad omen?
If you like this, try: “The Pirates! Band of Misfits” and “Shipwrecked”