At first, Judge Neal Masri thought this movie was called Doogan. Thankfully, he was mistaken.
Things are about to get hairy.
This British computer-animated film was formerly known as The Magic Roundabout (which itself was a re-packaging of a French television series). It has been re-tooled and rechristened Doogal for export to America. Much of the UK voice talent has been replaced with voices more familiar to American audiences for release on our side of the Atlantic.
Facts of the Case
Doogal is a lovable, scrappy mutt on a mission to save the world. The evil sorcerer Zeebad is accidentally freed, and is out to freeze the whole planet. Doogal and his lovable band of misfits set out on a quest to save the world from Zeebad's evil plan.
What hath Shrek wrought? With a few notable exceptions (such as The Incredibles), the template for animated kids movies pretty much follows the lead of the green ogre. Recognizable celebrity voices? Check. Unnecessary pop culture references? Check. A few familiar pop songs? Check. Flatulence jokes? Check. Doogal seems to have every one of the Shrek trademarks, except for likable characters or a charming story.
Things start out well enough with a dignified narration by Dame Judi Dench (Pride & Prejudice). We soon meet the star of the movie—a rather strange looking dog named Doogal (Daniel Tay, Elf). When Doogal's silly antics accidentally release the evil Zeebad (Jon Stewart, Big Daddy) from a 10,000 year exile, the sorcerer sets about attempting to freeze the world. With the help of good sorcerer Zebedee (Ian McKellen, X-Men), Doogal sets out with his intrepid friends to save the world.
Doogal's pals include a jive-talking cow (Whoopi Goldberg, The Color Purple), a slacker bunny (Jimmy Fallon, Taxi), a nerdy snail (William H. Macy, Fargo), and a helpful train (Chevy Chase, Fletch). Kevin Smith (Clerks) in full sell-out mode is also along for the ride as a farting moose. None of the voice actors stand out, but in fairness, they don't have much to work with. There are some great names in the cast, but I think they're all just here for the paychecks.
The silly plot involves the locating of three magic diamonds that will help our heroes to defeat Zeebad, though said plot seems to exist only to string together allegedly clever referential dialogue and scenes. The pop culture references in Doogal fly fast and furious. In the context of Doogal, all the pop culture silliness belies a serious lack of creativity. Pop references without context or cleverness are just a way to avoid developing new or creative material. The fact that the filmmakers seem to think the references so clever makes them even more annoying.
Would people still be watching Bambi 60 plus years later if most of its running time and dialogue were devoted to pop culture circa 1942? My guess is no. I think the creators of animated films need to actually start with a compelling story and then drop in the Pulp Fiction references and fart jokes later. It would make for a more entertaining and satisfying film.
Video quality is as excellent as expected for a digital-to-digital transfer such as this one. The lively color palette pops off the screen and the image is as sharp as a tack. A pan-and-scan version is offered as the first choice on Side A of the double-sided dic, with Side B containing the widescreen presentation. The widescreen version was viewed for this review. However, I suppose a full screen image is not a deal killer for a children's DVD that will probably get played on a 6-inch screen in the back seat of an SUV half the time anyway.
Audio is also well done. A fair amount of atmospheric sounds emanate from both the front and rear soundstage, and bass response is robust for both action and musical numbers.
A 15-minute featurette, creatively titled The Making of Doogal, is also included. It consists of a few behind the scenes shots of celebrities alone in recording booths intercut with filmmaker and cast interviews. The featurette does not contain very much enlightening information. The brief piece seems a lot like the sort of promotional bits that HBO sticks in as filler between movies.
Doogal was simply a bad idea from the word go. Changing the original British voiceovers to include a gaggle of familiar American ones did not make things any better. Discerning children and adults alike stayed far away during the theatrical run of Doogal. I expect the DVD will be in the bargain bin in no time at all.
Doogal is given a very strong technical presentation, but that's not nearly enough of an incentive to check it out. Parents looking to keep their kids quiet for 77 minutes might appreciate having Doogal to pop into the DVD player. But unless you're really desperate for an electronic babysitter, there are animated films of vastly higher quality for the kids to watch.
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