My Ultra-Critical, Tongue-in-Cheek Review of the Worst Children's Movie

Hello, friends!   I've been swamped this past month.  Even with no Facebook (*sniff*), I find that my time is readily filled with all kinds of projects, appointments, playdates, parties, homeschool planning, and assorted obligations.  Yet my house still looks like a wreck.  I am wondering why scientists haven't figured out a way to eradicate sleep... I mean, who needs it, really?

Anyway, life is great, if hectic, and I am excited to finally be able to write this blog and post it, even if it's in the wee hours of the morning and I have to get up in five hours.  What could be so important, I hear you cry?

I am here to tell you that "All Dogs Go to Heaven 2" is the worst children's movie that I've seen in recent years... or possibly ever.  Allow me to explain.

First of all, the original movie of "All Dogs Go to Heaven" is pretty good, as non-Disney animated films go.  As I remember, despite flaws in the script, children appreciated the storyline.  (All is redeemed when you find out that Burt Reynolds and Dom Deluise, two of the voice actors, actually ad-libbed most of their lines.)  I mean, the film wasn't perfect, and it has some of the same issues as the sequel does, but I can't deny that it was a popular film when I was a kid, especially after it came out on video.  Don Bluth generally directed terrific animated movies; who doesn't love the truly classic "An American Tail" or "The Land Before Time"?  So I can definitely see the appeal.  The movie was fine on its own.  It didn't need or merit a sequel, but the studio did it, anyway, without Don Bluth as the director. 

I had the opportunity to watch the sequel when a child at my house selected the movie on Hulu.  [Warning: spoiler alert.]  The basic, thin-as-paper premise is that two tough-but-good dogs (Charlie and Itchy), who live in heaven, are sent back to earth when "Gabriel's Horn" falls through the clouds.  Heaven doesn't want the horn to fall into evil hands on earth, so it's imperative that Charlie and Itchy find it and bring it back.  Along the way, the dogs meet other earthly dog friends (such as Sasha Le Fleur) and a scrappy little boy (David, with the requisite 1996 haircut) who ran away from home, and they help each other, et cetera.  Adventures ensue and all is right in the end: the dogs find the horn and return to heaven, the bad guys (like villains Red and Carface) get their comeuppance, the little boy goes home, and all of the protagonists live happily ever after.  

So what's so bad about that, I hear you ask?  Well, I have a list.

1. Sexist and Sexy

The female dog characters are either angels (literally, like the top angel Annabelle) or dogs of ill repute (namely, Sasha Le Fleur).  This is the old "Madonna-whore" dichotomy: there are good girls and bad girls, and that's it. 

In particular, Sasha Le Fleur is an out-of-place character.  She is like Jessica Rabbit (or perhaps Lucy from "Avenue Q"), except that this is a children's cartoon.  The male dogs act like, well, dogs around her: they salivate, fight, float, swallow their cigars, spin on their chairs, throw their girlfriend's flowers, et cetera.  I almost expected one of the dogs to stick a dollar bill in her collar.  At the end of one scene, after Sasha rejects Charlie's advances, Charlie says his friend's name ("Itch") in such a way that I had to listen to it again to make sure that it wasn't another word.  But maybe that's just me.

There was also a line about how Sasha thought that "breeding" would be a good quality for a partner to have, and Charlie responds that he would be good at that.  That's no surprise, I guess, since Charlie is voiced by none other than Charlie Sheen.  Sasha sings:

Note that it's not that I have a problem with romance or sexy characters in movies, but I thought that the character was way over the top for a children's movie.  In my research, I found a disturbing number of "sexy animated dog" videos that suggest that people have way too much time on their hands.  (Like me, I guess, but I don't count.)

2. Cheap shots

In one scene, Gabriel's Horn lands in San Francisco, and the dogs exchange comments about how it's going to be a particular challenge (as San Francisco is the city of sin, of course, har har).  In another scene, they need to get the cops out of the police station in order to obtain the confiscated horn, so someone yells that doughnuts are available, which sends the cops running outside in a frenzy to get the doughnuts.

These situations would be stock gags in an adult movie, but why put them in a children's movie?  They were not there for my enjoyment, and the references would go over children's heads and serve to reinforce stereotypes.  I can just picture my kids saying, "San Francisco must be where bad guys live."  It's just unnecessary, that's all.

3. Scary as hell

It's hard to put into words how inappropriate some of the scenes would be for small children, even as the other references would completely miss them.  It's pretty scary. 

At the end of the film, the evil Red character - who uses former angel Carface as an accomplice and drags him down with him - goes beyond just being greedy.  After Red obtains Gabriel's Horn, Red bends the gates of heaven and puts the angel dogs into cages on earth.  Then he grows into a monstrous, powerful, merciless, Satanic figure and threatens not only the lives of the protagonists, but indeed the fate of all dogs.  Take the Ursula water scene from the end of "The Little Mermaid" and combine it with Tim Curry's character in "Legend" and see what I mean.

Imagine that you're 4 or 5 years old, watching this scene:

4. Bad theology

This is probably what I like the least about this movie.  This reminds me of all of the oversimplistic plots that reinforce this idiotic idea that good guys go to heaven, bad guys go to hell, and yet heaven is a place where no cool guy really wants to be.  Because being good is boring, as everyone knows.

None of these movies ever mention "God" in heaven - instead, they focus on harps, wings, clouds, white robes, and characters being really polite.  They take out the spirituality part of it.  To put it another way, it's like seeing the mock Eiffel Tower in Las Vegas.

But what sets this film apart is that the villain really is like Satan.  He's a fallen angel who wants the power of heaven.  He even looks like what we'd imagine Satan would look like.  Pretty heavy stuff for a children's film, if you ask me.  We also find out that all dogs DON'T go to heaven.  Some of the dogs are actually shown going to doggie hell!  I mean, what is the point of the movie?  Perhaps it should be called "Good Dogs Go to Heaven, Which Is Boring as Hell"... even though Charlie gets another pass at life on earth.

Plus, I am a Universalist, so I believe that everyone goes to heaven.  It's just not my kind of plot device.

5. Shoddy production

There were many inconsistencies in the animation, but that's one thing.  Now, my favorite thing: at the very end of the film, when the boy David is reunited with his father and pregnant stepmother, the stepmother clearly says to David: "Having this baby doesn't mean I love you."

Hahahaha!!!  Exactly.

Watch the mistake here, at 2:20:

Watch the "All Dogs Go to Heaven 2" trailer here:

Wiki article here:

***[By the way, not to bring in something irreparably sad, but I felt I had to mention this.  Judith Barsi, the child who voiced the main character "Anne-Marie" in the first "All Dogs Go to Heaven" also voiced the memorable "Ducky" character from "The Land Before Time" movie.  Tragically, Judith was abused by her father for years, and she was murdered by him at the age of ten.  It is for this reason that I can't bring myself to criticize the first movie as harshly... just doesn't seem right, somehow.  I had no idea before I wrote this blog who Judith Barsi was, but now that I know, I am profoundly sad.  I would recommend to you the documentary or tributes about her life, but honestly, I don't know if I have the strength to watch them again myself.  But if you're interested, Google her name to read her story.  Good Lord.]

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