Wednesday, November 30, 2011

An All Dogs Christmas Carol (1998)

Watching An All Dogs Christmas Carol feels like watching a bizarre relic of a long forgotten era. Perhaps I'd feel differently if I'd ever seen either of the All Dogs Go To Heaven movies or a single episode of the TV series (which, prior to visiting Wikipedia, I didn't know existed). I assume there are people who are nostalgic for this series, though I don't think I've ever met a single one.

I actually find it a little disquieting that this made-for-TV movie isn't all bad. It has plenty of bad parts and cheap animation, but it also has a few clever puns, some decent voice acting, and a script that someone at least put effort into.

The story begins fairly generically, with what Wikipedia assures me were the main characters to the All Dogs movies and TV show celebrating the holidays. The villain, Carface, shows up with a magic dog whistle, and uses it to hypnotize the dogs and steal their stuff.

All of this ties back to another villain Wikipedia assures me comes from the show. Her name's Belledonna and - to her credit - she's a hellhound. Okay, they don't use the term, but she's clearly a hound and she's clearly from hell. Unlike her sister, who's an angel.

Jesus Christ: I don't know what the hell I'm talking about. Just go with it.

There's literally a demonic bitch who's enlisted the help of Carface and his minion to help her ruin Christmas with a giant version of the evil magic dog whistle that showed up earlier.

The main characters are then tasked by the aforementioned arch-angel dog (who is also technically a bitch) with finding the magic whistle and stopping Belledonna's insanely stupid plan. Because of some sort of arbitrary rule, the angel bitch can't just tell them where the devil bitch is located. Instead, she entrusts them with a magic dog tag, which has the power of miraculously transforming the entire thing into a version of A Christmas Carol.

And that's where things kind of get interesting. Surprisingly, the story stays fairly true to the spirit and structure of A Christmas Carol for this section. It also makes shifts the perspective from Charlie (the main character of the movies and show) to Carface: from this point on, it's his story.

I wouldn't say it's told particularly well, but it hits the required beats. Childhood trauma? Check. Injured kid he becomes attached to? Check. Confronting an eternity in hell (they're actually quite explicit here) if he doesn't change his ways? Also check.

In the end, he faces the demon bitch and stops her plan. Before she can kill him, the angel bitch shows up and unleashes the wrath of God in his defense. Well, a snow storm, but it has the same effect.

She also delivers a short speech on free will that struck me as fairly sophisticated for children's entertainment. It's nothing new, of course, but even generic theology is pretty rare these days.

None of it adds up to something you - or anyone else, for that matter - should ever see again, but that's precisely what I find fascinating. This is something that someone evidently believed in. This was a made-for-TV movie wrapping up one of the least important animated series in film history: there's no reason anyone had to put an ounce of effort into it, at all. But they did try. And they made something that isn't altogether bad.

But why would anyone ever watch it again? Kids now have dozens - hundreds - of better options at their disposal than sitting through the animated series leading up to this. Netflix, Hulu, and Youtube have plenty of far superior offerings.

Which leaves All Dogs Christmas Carol in an eternal Purgatory. It's not bad enough to damn, but it's not good enough to watch. It's almost sad, really.

1 comment :

  1. This makes me think of the movie Oliver and Company. I will never forget that McDonald's had tree ornaments for each of the characters and when you squeezed their bellies they played music. At that time I was a fat kid cause I ate so many happy meals just to collect them all!

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

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