Whewww! Okay. Now that I got that out of my system… what the hell was that?
It’s not every day that you end up sitting down to watch a movie that you think will at least be as generic as All Dogs Go to Heaven 2, but then actually turns out to be worse than Bebe’s Kids, if it was edited by a 6th grader who was bored out of their mind and dropped soda all over the editing console.
There are numerous problems with this film. So many, in fact, that I daresay the ONLY thing that wasn’t one-hundred-percent awful was one minute of footage that was abnormally well-drawn and well-animated compared to the rest of the movie. And it was so shockingly good, that I literally rewound the DVD just to watch it again. It was that “not awful.”
So what is the proposed story of our little train-wreck here, as I am often to start these sorts of diatribes on this blog?
Well it’s about an old woman named Miss Lilly, who owns a large and sprawling mansion in the middle of Manhattan. And she keeps a small group of dogs and a pet parrot with her as her tenants, even taking them out on Motorbike rides on occasion. One day, while riding back across a large bridge (I couldn’t tell you which one, if it were real), the parrot known as Emmo, gets blown off of Miss Lilly’s bike and falls to the bottom of the bridge, where he grips onto the girder for dear life. Just below him on the beach head, two dogs sit close to a fire. The younger one with a head-band is named J.D., and the older one with the spectacles is named Chuffie. The two dogs attempt to coax ole’ Emmo down and try to eat him, but only until Emmo begins to spin a yarn about wanting to show his sick old mother that he can fly, before he dies. So he tells the dogs that he can find them a more suitable and substantial meal, if they simply take him back to his home where Miss Lilly lives. And so they do. And upon meeting Miss Lilly for the first time, they are immediately allowed into her home as permanent residents. Kinda perfect ain’t it?
Well, that is until Miss Lilly’s vindictive and greedy niece and nephew come over. Ronnie and Hannie, the Twins as they are called; who are two of the ugliest and strangely proportioned sorts you will ever see in a children’s animated film, attempt to persuade their aunt Lilly into bequeathing her mansion to them before her death, in order that they can live the good-life and party hardy until they die themselves. But of course their aunt isn’t having any of this, and softly and passively brushes their comments aside. Unfortunately, however, Miss Lilly does soon pass away due to a weak heart, and the dogs and parrot are left without a caretaker.
Before we continue the story, I’d like to speak briefly about the Twins just a bit more.
As far as cheap movie villains go, they are two of the worst when it comes to evil siblings. They both are unnaturally tall and slender in the legs and calves, but yet have awkwardly bulging mid sections, with heads and faces that seem to have been overly processed with collogen injections. The sister, Hannie, also has awkwardly large breasts, which I wouldn’t normally have a problem with, as many animated films have large boobs somewhere abouts, accompanied by a boob related joke. But in this case, her particular choice of outfit for the duration of the film makes them a bit more awkward to see here. Thankfully the characters of Ronnie and Hannie themselves aren’t all bad. They have their moments of humor and mild likability, if you’re willing to take those moments when they come.
Anyway. In an unusual turn of events, it appears that Miss Lilly, in much the same way as the Madam in The Aristocats, state it in her Will that all of her money and her home will go to her pets, with the hope that they will serve other stray pets as she has served them. The Twins of course are having none of this, so they embark on a search to find any law, still in effect, which they can exploit to remove the right of ownership to the house from the pets, and grant it to themselves. And indeed, they find it. A law which states that if any animal owning property leaves said property for a duration longer than 48 hours, than the closest living relative will gain ownership of the property. This then takes the twins to a dog expert named Dr. Quack (yes, they go see a talking goose with a PHD) to help remove the dogs and the parrot from the house, under the guise of a wish-fullfillment foundation that has been made aware of each of their greatest dreams.
Thus, everyone finds themselves in unfamiliar territory, either locked up somewhere, alone in the middle of an alley, forced to participate in a dog fighting ring, etc. The Twins then take hold of the mansion. And the presumed protagonist of the film, J.D., must now venture out to save all of his friends, reclaim the mansion, and kick the Twins out on the curb.
Now… did that make any sense to you at all? Despite how convoluted some of it sounded, I’m fairly certain that it must have. Which just goes to show you that… “if you wish hard enough, the actual point of a film will shine through, and you won’t be completely lost.” But trust me (as I am often to request of you all), this film has not begun to suck.
One of the worst issues with this film is by far it’s story. But even more visibly terrible than that is its dialogue.
The writing and the meaning behind many of this film’s dialogue moments comes from what I can only assume is the “whimsical friendship story hand-book,” where you have a group of diverse characters who all become friends due to the helpful and kind nature of a third party, and are subsequently thrust into conflict that is sure to pull these good friends apart for at least a half hour or so of run-time. And trust me, all of the sorts of things you’re starting to think of show up here. J.D. has a crush on the sexy character, Bella (pre-Twilight), whom he will share a few tender moments with. But don’t expect them to last more than 15 seconds. Chuffie, the smart one, dabbles in scientific endeavors and prefers to keep mostly to himself. The big brute known as Sherman has a small crush on the sweet young thing named Velvet, who may or may not be too young for him. And we have the obligatory Mexican character, which oddly enough, a couple of different animal-based ensemble-character stories have. Either that, or that have the obligatory French stereotype character. (e.g. Oliver and Company, The Brave Little Toaster to the Rescue, Sonic SATam, Thumbelina).
We also can’t forget the rich benefactor known as Miss Lilly, who shares a kindred spirit with the likes of The Madam (The Aristocats), Madam Foster (Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends), and Nanny (The Muppet Babies). Who seems to have such a broad range of talents and interests, but we never fully become familiar with who she is as a character. She’s apparently rich from some previous employment (it doesn’t always have to be the husband’s wealth). She likes to live a little dangerously as evidenced by her interest in riding hog-wild on a motorcycle. She’s proficient at playing classic rock on the piano. And she loves to care for stray animals. Not much else to say about her though. And therefore, we never fully get to care about her life, what she meant to the dogs, or the legacy that she leaves behind, which is what drives J.D. to make sure that he and his friends uphold the morals and values that Miss Lilly supposedly set for them.
Now like I was saying about the dialogue, conversations in this film seem to progress a bit like coming in just as a conversation is getting good, and getting to an actual point, but then everybody just says “alright, see you later,” and the conversation immediately ends. The scene then immediately fades out to a totally new scene, where a semi-related conversation is going on, except it’s based on almost completely unestablished concepts. Like I said, the dogs want to uphold Miss Lilly’s values and interests in helping out misfortunate pets and stray animals, but that fact was never fully established. We just got the sense that she may have reluctantly let each of these vastly unique animals into her home at different times, and they all became like a family. But there was never any mention of Miss Lilly wanting the animals to continue doing that for others. It would make more sense if they, instead, make the realization that maybe that’s what they should use Miss Lilly’s inheritance for. Which they do, it’s just their motives for doing it aren’t quite established the way that they should have been.
Beyond that, you’ll get a sense that numerous concepts and ideas that, while at first don’t seem out of place in a film this generic, were also not established at earlier points, and are seemingly tossed in where the writers thought they’d be appropriate according to the running-time. Not even 10 seconds after J.D. first meets his future girlfriend, Bella, she is completely and totally all over him, rubbing up against him, sniffing his face, and looking at him with a deeply focused gaze. It’s like she’s either been struck head-long by his handsomeness and can’t help herself, or she is extremely loose. In either case, it is one of the most contrived and forced romantic pairings I have ever seen in a film of this type. And by now, I hope you understand what type that is.
The film also brings up the character’s mutual bond and friendship, which, while that should be a given, they announce their beautiful friendship far more often than is believable. Certain films or TV series will emphasize the concept of “unbreakable friendship” when the program is designed for very young kids. But when they pull that card in certain programs, the characters themselves have to still be semi-believable sounding when they say things like “let us always be friends” and “don’t you see? You greed and selfish needs are tearing our friendship apart.” These character even come up with a pledge that says their friendship will never break so long as they live. And that was the point where I said, “ok. This film is trying WAY too hard to cram in a moral.” This film doesn’t deserve to have a moral. It’s far too dumb and badly structured for that.And it is the most contrived and over-used moral, because even mainstream movies use that as a moral, because it’s the easiest to slip into almost any story. And thankfully, whenever it is used, the characters never actually have to say embarrassing lines where they emphasize and announce their strong bonds of friendship. The audience can just simply infer it all from how well the characters interact with each other through thick and thin. That’s all you need, just good, believable chemistry. But again, the writing in Millionaire Dogs is not good enough for simple inference.
To get on to the music for a moment, there isn’t a whole lot to say. The general background music used is in some cases is abnormally good, and in others, very out of place perhaps. But it isn’t something to write home about.
The portion of the soundtrack that bothers me is its out-of-place Hip-Hop and R’n’B tracks (I typically love R’n’B), of which I believe it has three. There’s one that opens the movie. One that plays over a transitional section before Miss Lilly dies. And another that’s more of a rock’n’roll piece, which is performed by Miss Lilly and her lovely pets. The only problem with that is that the production team didn’t even try to make the singer for Miss Lilly sound like her aged self. They just found a singer that had a similar pitch and vibe, and had her sing as if Miss Lilly suddenly gained 30-40 years.
The stranger part of this musical number (which comes out of freaking nowhere, by the way, and nothing similiar appears later, either) is that the animation during it is some of the worst, if not THE WORST choreography I have ever seen for an animated musical number. I once explained during my PIppi Longstocking (1997) review that dance or action choreography during animated musical numbers is often horrendously bad, dorky, and embarrassing. Most of the time it consists of characters pacing across the room, criss-crossing each other, doing some jazz hands, and eventually doing the old stand-by, where the characters bend over, kick their legs up behind them and wave their arms back and forth. It’s cheap, it’s cliche, and it does such musical numbers a disservice. Because in some cases, the songs themselves aren’t half bad, but the choreography, which no one seems to want to do a good job with, make the song twice as bad as it actually is. Or it makes a good song hard to listen to let alone watch. Pippi Longstocking actually had some of the most creative choreography and character business I have ever seen for an animated musical number OUTSIDE of any Disney film. And as far as bad choreography goes, this song in Millionaire Dogs has to take the cake. Though we might just get to some worse choreography in an upcoming review, I’ll let you be the judge.
I’m probably losing my place at this point. But that’s what eternally confused and misguided films like this can do to you. They can bombard your eyes and ears with so many odd, strange, and bewildering production choices, dialogue, and edits, that it’s hard to know which way is up.
Against, trust me when I say that the editing in this film will astound you, and for all the wrong reasons. I have never seen a film transition this unnecessarily, this often. And I’ve never seen a film, animated for English dialogue, paced so poorly.
Yeah, that’s something I’ve probably forgotten to mention until now. This film is a foreign production, produced and animated in Germany, but was made specifically for English speaking audiences. And audiences “specifically” in the USA. Which just begs the question, why didn’t they just work with an American script writing team? Why did they try to make a cliched, awkward, and practically insulting example of child pandering material such as this, and not have a genuine American write it up?
If you didn’t get the joke, I’m saying that only an American could tell a cliched story like this better than a European. Because as I’ve typically seen, European filmmakers, especially those in France, Germany, Ireland, and Russia, produce some of the most ground-breaking and unique animated films on the planet. And they are never tied down by cliched and over-used stories like this one here. Sure, not every filmmaker in Europe can be a genius auteur, but plenty have been. So it pains me to see such great potential go to waste on a film that was only aired on Cartoon Network a hand-full of times. And I’m surprised CN even allowed it to play at all. It must have been back in the early days when their standards weren’t as high. Cartoon Network is practically the best damned kids network on television, considering their brilliant line-up these days. It might not be the shows we grew up with, but out of everything else that’s out there right now, they have some of the best that’s in syndication.
Anyway, it’s pretty clear that I have to call this one of the worst animated films I have ever seen in my life. Nothing about this makes any logical sense. And it is becoming more and more difficult to say anything else about it. So I’m just going to stop now.
If you want a slightly more coherent and clear break down of the film in video form, here’s a review by the youtube movie reviewer, Jambareeqi:
Goodnight. Next time, hopefully something a little more easier to digest.