I've often found that young children go into animated movies with the same mindset: they'll love it even before the lights in the theater go dim. And what's not to love? Everything is bright, wacky, and fun, no one gets killed, and a happy ending is virtually guaranteed. Of course, adults have a different set of standards for the films they'd prefer to see. Sure, a family film is okay; at least then there's something for everyone. But if they're forced to sit through a cartoon made entirely for young children, then there's a lot to be desired. "Doogal" is definitely a children's film, and for them, I would recommend it. But for adults, even those who have young children ... well, it may be something you'll want to pass on.
A completely computer generated adventure, "Doogal" has everything a child would love: lots of vivid colors, talking animals, talking toys, juvenile comedy, and harmless dialogue. Of course, the visuals will probably distract them from the basic good vs. evil storyline. Then again, they may not; it's a genre that's been utilized in countless numbers of cartoons, most of which they've seen on more than a couple of occasions (and for that we can thank the folks at Disney). It's a genre that also has the ability to close cultural gaps. The film itself is proof of that; it was originally produced in France, only to later be re-dubbed by English speaking actors. The script was also completely rewritten by American born Butch Hartman, the creator of Nickeloden's "Fairly Odd Parents."
Nothing was complex or detailed as far as the plot is concerned, and the characters were appropriately made one-dimensional (a plus, considering the average child's attention span). In what was obviously crafted to be an under aged salute to the "Lord of the Rings" Trilogy, "Doogal" is the story of a puppy and his quest to save the world. When the evil sorcerer Zeebad (Jon Stewart) is accidentally released from his merry-go-round prison, he takes his revenge by covering the whole world in snow and ice. Things only go downhill when he steals three magic diamonds, the ones that have the ability to freeze the sun permanently. If there's to be any hope of thawing the frozen landscape, then the diamonds have to be restored. (It should be noted here that Zeebad is a metal spring. That's right: a metal spring.)
Here enters the good sorcerer Zebedee (Ian McKellen, whose character is also a metal spring). He puts together a ragtag fellowship specifically for this dangerous quest. It's led by Doogal (Daniel Tay), a self-serving, candy obsessed young mutt whose best friend, Florence (Kyle Minogue), has been imprisoned by a wall of ice. If he's to succeed in saving her--as well as in saving the world--he must learn to think of others and not just himself. Helping him are his friends, including: Dylan (Jimmy Fallon), a guitar playing rabbit who is always sleepy; Ermintrude (Whoopie Goldberg), a cow who dreams of musical stardom (despite the fact that she can't sing to save her life); and Brian (William H. Macy), a levelheaded snail who happens to be in love with Ermintrude. (Don't bother asking why; remember, this is a kid's film.) Completing the list of characters in the unseen narrator, voiced by the Academy Award nominated Judi Dench.
Yes, "Doogal" is the kind of film kids would love. Unfortunately, I'm an adult, and I couldn't help but analyze it from an adult's perspective. There was just so much that didn't work for me, not the least of which was animation that couldn't hold a candle to the likes of Dreamworks or Pixar. Every shot looked like an amateurish, half-hearted attempt, qualities that would only be dismissible were it a weekly cartoon on Playhouse Disney or Kids' WB. I'm not saying the characters had to look realistic: if anything, that would hurt the movie more. I just felt that the graphics people could have put a little more effort into things like texture, lighting, and movement. I also would have liked it if the characters' mouth movements were redone. I've already told you that this was originally a French film. Because of that, the voices were out of sync with the mouths. At first I could let it go, but after a while I found it to be distracting and detrimental to the movie.
Another problem was a noticeable clash of comedic styles. Visually speaking, the audience is immersed in a toddler's dream world: completely sterile, fantastic, and loaded with a mishmash of seemingly unconnected creatures. (Who'd have thought you'd see a film where humans, animals, and toys coexisted?) This in and of itself works. However, it loses cohesion when you factor in Hartman's Americanized dialogue. Almost every joke in this film is a pop culture reference, something that seemed too removed from the genre and too mature for young audiences. Would four-year-olds understand any of the references to "Lord of the Rings"? For that matter, would they understand the references to "Star Trek," "King Kong," or "Indiana Jones"? I hope they can, because they all find their way into the movie.
Even some of the voice styles worked against the movie. Case in point: Dylan the rabbit, whose guitar playing called for him to sound like a wasted rock star. Fallon's tired and consistently disinterested performance might have worked had "Doogal" been aiming for a preteen audience. I don't know; I just think that if the filmmakers insisted on including jokes adults would get, they should have veered away from the cruder gags only children would appreciate. The best example is a moose (Kevin Smith) that continuously passes gas.
I guess this review is basically a warning to parents: your child in all likelihood will love "Doogal," but you in all likelihood will not. It's just not meant for anyone over the age of eight. I suppose that's not a bad thing; kids enjoy seeing movies that live up to their standards of entertainment. I still think it would have been better if the humor had meshed with the film's overall look. But what do I know? As I said earlier, I'm an adult.