Rob Reviews "Rock Dog"
The good thing about kids’ films is the fact that no matter what kind of film you make, there IS an audience out there somewhere. I have a lot of friends that have small children who seem to be able to find things for them to watch that I have never even heard of but are in HEAVY rotation in their Netflix queue. The entertainment value even for a guy like me can be marginal at best, but the kids could not be more focused on what is happening on the screen regardless of how many times they have seen it. I have even been privy to some screenings of films like this, and I have to be honest when I say that if it isn’t one of the big studios putting it out, I approach these films with a level of caution. Not really knowing much about “Rock Dog,” this is where my mind was.
Directed by “Toy Story 2” co-director as well as “Surf’s Up” Ash Brannon helms this tale from a Chinese graphic novel of Bodi (Luke Wilson), a mastiff whose father, Khampa (J.K. Simmons), is the protector of their village of sheep in Asia from a group of wolves headed up by Linnux (Lewis Black). Bodi is not really on board with taking his father’s place, as he has more of a passion for music, so Khampa lets his son go to the big city to try to make it as a musician with the caveat that he will come home if he fails. While there, he makes friends with a couple of street musicians named Dharma (Mae Whitman) and Germur (Jorge Garcia) as he looks to meet his idol, Angus Scattergood (Eddie Izzard), for music lessons to fulfill his dream. Between Angus not really wanting to deal with him and the wolves on his tail (pun intended), it’s going to be a rough go of it for Bodi to try to both see his dream come true and fulfill his destiny.
There is more to show here as well from a voice cast standpoint including Kenan Thompson, Matt Dillon, Brannon himself, and Sam Elliot, who plays a yak named Fleetwood (a YAK, named FLEETWOOD… as in FLEETWOOD YAK… yep, that just happened). With a cast like this, there was the People’s Eyebrow getting raised a bit, but the start of the film still had my arms crossed and wondering what I was getting up this early on a Saturday morning for. Once it gets its wheels underneath it, what I began to saw was a nice little story about family, chasing a dream, and never giving up on who you want to be. I am not going to say to watch for this on any “Best Animated Feature” lists anytime soon, but this also is not a bargain bin kind of film either. This is one of those that you pop in at a time when the kids are complaining that they have watched a certain Disney type film too many times and they just need a palate cleanser. There are some out there that will put this in a top rotation, but not enough that I feel that this will be the surprise hit of the year.
I like that a film like “Rock Dog” is released near the end of the first quarter of the year from a studio like H. Brothers because they get to put it out there when there is not much competition for the family dollar (mostly right now from “The Lego Batman Movie,” but it could start to wane by this hitting theaters). This gives an alternative family film like this a chance to stand out a bit before spring gives way to summer and we as moviegoers start getting bombarded by the big studios trying to drown out the little guys with blockbusters and awards consideration films. If you are looking for a good time to spend with the kids for about an hour and a half without getting totally bored out of your mind yourself, give “Rock Dog” a chance. It may not only surprise you, but it also could spark some great conversations about self-esteem and standing up for what you believe in.