When I saw that an animated film from Russia was playing at my local theater, curiosity got the best of me so I went to check it out. I have to say it’s one of the latest in a string of “what the hell did I just watch?” movies. If you’ve ever wanted to know what a Russian animated film is like, let me assure you that it’s pretty much what you’d expect. How this managed a theatrical release in the U.S. boggles the mind.
Believe it or not, this is an actual sequel to the 2010 film “Space Dogs.” Part II assumes the audience is already familiar with the characters because in the introductory scenes, there’s zero set up as to who these characters are and what their backgrounds were. There are obvious references to the earlier film which make this movie strange from the get-go. In this one, adorable pup Pushok sets out to find his missing cosmonaut dad. The pup travels to the White House (what?) and climbs onboard a U.S. rocket bound for the moon. When he arrives on the moon he finds his mom, dad, a loud and obnoxious monkey astronaut from Texas (double what?) and an abandoned baby alien. Told you this movie is crazy.
The film is poorly computer animated and most of it looks very cheap and uninviting. There are jerky movements and blurry backgrounds, and the lack of detail is very distracting. The animals have no personality in the way they are drawn; no richness to their fur and no contrast in their coloring. I can’t imagine how any child would fall in love with any of these characters. International copyright laws have also been thrown out the window because there’s a rat named Lenny who is a dead ringer for Remy from the Disney/Pixar film “Ratatouille.”
I saw the U.S. theatrical release so the entire thing was dubbed in English by D-list American actors who will do anything to pay the rent, including Ashlee Simpson, Phil LaMarr and Alicia Silverstone. This meant the dialogue didn’t match the mouth movements of the animation. Sometimes the dogs’ mouths were moving when nothing was being said, making for an amusing yet confusing ride (I would have much preferred to see it in Russian with English subtitles). The most unintentionally hilarious scene is a god-awful musical number (scored with some random, ghastly original American pop song) where dogs Belka and Strelka are “singing” and performing. The song lyrics make zero sense and half the time the dogs don’t even appear to be talking at all!
There was also this bizarre ending voiceover about how Russia and the United States agreed to work together in the space race in an act of international cooperation — it felt false and tacked on and couldn’t have been in the original foreign version (especially because earlier in the film there’s a reference to “the Americans” being behind a laser ray that’s stealing objects to place on the moon).
Was some of the script changed a bit to suit American audiences? I’m not sure. There is one particular line that makes me think the perhaps not. A pet cat is lamenting that his person now loves her new dog more than him, so his rabbit friend begins to freak out that she will tire of her pets and “sell us for medical experiments.”
If that ain’t Russian, I don’t know what is.
Matt was unavailable for review.