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"You're very lucky pups. Some dogs are not so lucky; some are born Labradors; some are born Spaniels, and some poor dogs are even born Chihuahuas."—Sir Gregory
Shepherd David Kennard has turned his profession into a cottage industry. There have already been several books and a documentary made about his sheepdogs, and now there's Mist: The Tale of a Sheepdog Puppy, a fictionalized peek inside the workings of Borough Farm.
It's a warm, fuzzy affair, stuffed with so many lambs, ducklings, and puppies that it caused my internal cute-ometer to explode in an orgiastic spray of pony-shaped sparkles.
Facts of the Case
One foggy night, a litter of Border Collie pups is born in the barn of Borough Farm, but only one can join the pack and be a working sheepdog. Mist wants to be that dog more than anything, but the path to her dream is not so easy. Luckily for Mist, she has pack leader Sir Gregory, ditzy Jake, and the rest of the dogs to help her, though jealous Fern sometimes leads her astray.
For future reference, the following phrases will instantly reduce me to
After Babe, one more quote entered my lachrymose lexicon: "That'll do." It's not a phrase that's hard to avoid, unless you're watching a sheepdog movie, so, five minutes into Mist: The Tale of a Sheepdog Puppy and I was already sniffling.
Like Babe, Mist's story unfolds in a series of gentle vignettes featuring lots of farm animals. What makes the movie unique is that the story is built around documentary-style animal footage, with voices dubbed in over the action. There are no flappy CGI mouths and no cartoonish characters. Some moments are obviously created for the sake of the plot, but all the best ones take spontaneous video of the dogs and work it into the big picture, like when a newborn lamb decides Jake is his mommy.
Most "family" films seem to bypass the parents and aim straight for kids who think body functions are the highest form of humor, but the British-imported Mist takes a more grown-up approach. The comedy comes from the animals' personalities and the excellent vocal cast, including Derek Jacobi (I Claudius) as narrator and Brian Blessed (Flash Gordon) giving his usual bombastic performance as pack leader Sir Gregory. Grumpy Scottish rams, bubbly ducks, and daffy Jake, who talks a mile a minute, give the movie the same warm feeling of a Beatrix Potter tale.
The DVD's stereo track is perfectly balanced and the widescreen picture is nice enough, considering the movie was shot on video, not film. Because capturing live animals on handheld cameras isn't easy, shots are occasionally out of frame or out of focus, but it's not overly distracting.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Mist's cases promises "Deleted Scenes with Commentary by David Kennard," but after exploring every nook and cranny of the menu and much futile button pushing, I still can't find it. The only other thing actually on the disc is a bunch of trailers for other canine titles from the Allumination catalog. You can appreciate the gentle, intelligent nature of the movie even more after the preview in which a deranged moppet uses the demonic spirit of his dead dog to get back at bullies—mainly by lobbing things at their groin.
What Mist: The Tale of a Sheepdog Puppy lacks in bonuses, it more than makes up for with the quality of the feature. The movie can be enjoyed with a kiddie or a kitty on your lap and will easily satisfy families, animal lovers, and anyone who's got Cute Overload bookmarked in their "Favorites" folder. I laughed and cried and never cringed once.
Now if you'll excuse me, I need to finish cleaning the glitter off my keyboard.
Guilty of being utterly adorable.
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Studio: Allumination Filmworks
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