It’s time another animated diamond as refined as The Triplets of Belleville knocked films like Doogal off the oppressive, personality-free CGI tide they try to hitch. The film, a co-production between Pathé and the UK Film Council (released in France and England as The Magic Roundabout, the title of the Serge Danot children’s book from which it’s adapted), is the Weinstein Company’s latest attempt to stake out a claim in the animation market; should it connect with the public, we may be doomed to seeing similar such imports for years to come. Arriving here a little lost in translation and with a whole new set of voices (Ian McKellen and Kylie Minogue are the only carryovers from the Brit-voiced version officially reviewed here), the film stars Doogal (Robbie Williams for me, Kenan Thompson—gulp—for you), a dog that must find a way to free his master from a frozen merry-go-round with the help of his talking friends: a snail, a bunny rabbit, a cow, and a choo-choo train. (Trust me, it only sounds cute.) Doogal, a cross between a maltese and Felicity Huffman’s Bree from Transamerica, lives in some garishly dull hamlet where everything looks like a Christmas ornament—Amélie’s Montmartre by way of Nintendo GameCube. Exposition and character complication is so recklessly shunned as to suggest the filmmakers are pathological (or—if I were to give them the benefit of the doubt—something was left on the cutting room floor). The whole thing resembles a prolonged trailer—a cheap tapestry of Big Moments. Nothing makes sense or is carefully considered, like the progress Brian the snail (Jim Broadbent for me, William H. Macy for you—an even trade-off, right?) makes across the screen; the creature couldn’t beat a turtle in a foot race but it scales incredible territory in between cuts. This laziness wouldn’t be so troublesome if it didn’t spill over into the emotional space of the film. Because Doogal’s relationship to his master falls just short of nonexistent, his struggle to save her lacks feeling, and after the springy ice wizard Zeebad (Tom Baker for me, John Stewart—God damit!—for you) is freed and comes falling from the sky (“At last!” he yells in typical bad-guy fashion, emphasizing how long he’s been out of commission), you may wonder where the character has been freed from! In short, Doogal sucks, meaning parents looking for an 85-minute pacifier for their rambunctious, undiscriminating tots will rejoice.
- Dave Borthwick, Jean Duval, Frank Passingham
- Paul Bassett, Tad Safran, Stephane Sanoussi, Raolf Sanoussi
- Tom Baker, Jim Broadbent, Lee Evans, Diana Loftus, Joanna Lumley, Ediz Mahmut, Ian McKellen, Kyle Minogue, Bill Nighy, Robbie Williams, Ray Winstone, Jimmy Hibbert
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