Doogal, a new animated film about a rambunctious, candy-loving dog, has a great pedigree. It was derived from a popular French children’s TV show which was shown in England with great success under the title of The Magic Roundabout; it features the voice work of Judi Dench, William H. Macy and Whoopi Goldberg and is being released by former Miramax head honcho Harvey Weinstein. With such good breeding too bad it won’t be winning any awards at the Westminster Dog Show.
Like Curious George, another recent animated movie, Doogal is geared for younger kids who will likely take delight in the silly story, the bright colors—Doogal lives in a village where everything seems to be made of gingerbread and icing—and goofy characters. I’m not sure, however, how many times even the most patient of parents will be able to endure the adventures of Doogal—who I thought looked like a member of the 1970s band Slade, with his shaggy hair and droopy eyes—and his band of friends. The unlikely group—a train, a love-struck snail, a singing cow and Karate master rabbit, characters that seem ready-made to become merchandise if the movie is a hit—must retrieve three diamonds from far flung places, keeping them out of the hands of the evil Zeebad who will use their power to freeze the sun and earth. If they are successful they will be able to free Doogal’s owner Florence from the icy jail that imprisons her.
The filmmakers have thrown in the obligatory pop culture references in an effort to keep parents on board—everything from Pulp Fiction, to Lord of the Rings and Mission Impossible is included—but I don’t think a few in-jokes will be enough to keep older eyes interested.
One drawing point for older viewers is the addition of the funniest man on television, Jon Stewart, to the voice cast. Stewart is Zeebad, and all I can say is that it is a good thing that he’s hosting the Oscars this year because that is as close to an acting award as he’ll ever get.
Although it is packed with good messages for kids about tolerance and co-operation, Doogal isn’t as clever as Hoodwinked, as gentle as Curious George or as touching as last week’s dog movie Eight Below.