Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Doogal (2006)

I honestly can say I don't think I have ever seen a movie like Doogal. In a way I've seen Doogal a million times before even knowing about it's existence because it truly is the defacto representative of a decade's worth of lazy cheap CGI animated movies put into one nice little package. It's a crappy looking movie voiced by actors who clearly lost a bet with Harvey Wienstien at some point. It's not particularly funny, with most of it's humor coming from obvious pop culture references and farting. It's not emotional in any way, in fact it's perhaps one of the most cynically made kids movie out there. It doesn't even really manage to make any sense whatsoever.

And yet, in it's own special way, Doogal is really fascinating. I don't think I've ever seen a movie that could possible give less of a fuck about, well, anything. Even the most blatant and obvious cash-grabs have some sort of effort put in by somebody along the line, but this? Nothing, nothing at all. It's not a so-bad-it's-funny movie. It's barely a movie. It's closer to being Wizard People, Dear Reader then it is a movie. Because I'm not reviewing The Magic Roundabout, the European animated film that was released a year before which just so happened to feature the same visuals as today's movie. No, I'm talking about Doogal, the American dub of said film that is so disconnected from what's on screen that it may as well be Brad Neely narrating it for us.

The extent of how little anybody cared about Doogal can be seen right in it's marketing. The poster is this one-sheet with the half of the main character's face on the right and the cast listing on the left. The tagline reads "Things are about to get hairy." What does this tell you? Absolutely nothing. What's a doogal? It's not a word. Is it the dog? Is that even a dog? Now I understand using mysterious marketing to draw in viewers but I think I can safely say that this ain't Cloverfield. The only thing we have to go on is the cast, and it's a bizzare one. Whoopi Goldberg? Ian McKellan? The Daily Show's Jon Stewart? Was the movie's casting agent just a monkey with a dartboard? You could argue, I guess, that the big names are to draw in an audience. I can see the kids pulling at their parents' arms now, saying "Mommy, can we see that one? It has Chevy Chase and Judi Dench!" Perhaps an enterprising parent could check the movie's official website, a WordPress blog that's more then happy to tell you;
There are so many animated movies nowadays that sometimes it’s hard to choose the one to watch today. Not only children but adult people also like animations: they give rise to positive emotions and provoke laugh and smile. Whether you kid or adult I recommend you to watch “Doogal” (Magic Roundabout) movie. This movie will pick you up and take off any stress!
Not only did the poster designer clearly not watch the movie, apparently nobody bothered to see if their webmaster could speak English. This is called "setting the tone."

The movie begins with two bedsprings with faces who are wizards chasing each other through a snow covered wasteland. Their names are Zebede (Ian McKellan) and Zeebad (Jon Stewart) and hold on I need a minute here...


Okay. Well two sentences in and we already have a lot to discuss. Let's start with the names. Zebede and Zeebad. I'm pretty sure those were filler names, marked in the script with notes to change them once they thought of a better name. Of course that would assume that somebody wrote a script for this, which I am still skeptical about. Anyway, the movie continues as Zebede wakes up, revealing it was all just a dream of his. He then looks out the window of his home, which I believe is in the sun, seeing the small town underneath him as "Oh Ho Ho It's Magic" by Pilot starts playing. Truly a promising start.

We then get to the "plot," and I use that term very loosely here. The disembodied voice of Judi Dench introduces our main gang, the candy loving talking dog Doogal (Daniel Tay), his owner Florence (Kylie Minogue), the opera singing cow Ermintrude (Whoopi Goldberg), her secret admirer Brian the Snail (William H. Macy), and guitar playing, possibly stoned rabbit hippie Dylan (Jimmy Fallon). To recap, a dog, a cow, a giant snail, and a rabbit will be our protagonists this evening. I think there's a much more interesting movie to be made about how the hell these abominations came to being, but by this time you have already witnessed the bedspring wizards so really you shouldn't be that surprised. One day they are all hanging out when Doogal accidentally sends the candy delivery man's car into a nearby carousel, freeing Zeebad and his toy soldier lacky Sam (Bill Hader). Zeebad wants to make everything snow by blocking out the sun. The only way to stop him is to get three crystals from some places before the bad guy, Indiana Jones style. To help them do this, Zebede gives them a talking train (Chevy Chase). Also, there's this farting moose (Kevin Smith, perfecting his method style) who keeps showing up.

Obviously we have a lot of questions here. If you want answers, I suggest watching another movie because Doogal just doesn't care enough for explanations of any sort. I don't think they even explain what the crystals really do, just that whoever gets them wins. I don't know how a plot can manage to both be way too overstuffed and simultaneously so simple and slight. Have you ever read Axe Cop, the webcomic that's written by a 5 year old which manages to be so brilliantly silly? Doogal is like the terrible mirror image of that kind of storytelling, a kid giving his stream of conscious ideas on what the movie should be about. Only after he's done, his story is filtered through a bunch of studio executives who are pretty sure their kid liked Shrek 2. It's all the wild inconsistent random plot points with none of the charm!

That's not even mentioning the dialogue, if it can be called that. Good lord. It's like they made an entire movie based on awful one liners. Wait, no, it's not like that, it is exactly that. I really can't think of any moment where two characters had an actual freaking conversation. Clearly every actor onboard is only in this for the paycheck and boy does it show. Before Jimmy Fallon was the man behind the great talk show with consistently amazing musical performances, and after he was an amusing Weekend Update host with a cute tendency to crack up on camera, he was a very bad actor. But not even Taxi can compare to his obnoxiousness in this movie. While we're on the subject of Shrek, Fallon's character Dylan the Stoned Rabbit was clearly supposed to be the Donkey of this movie, able to bust out the pop-culture riffs at will without breaking the world of the film. The problem is that every character except Doogal himself essentially fills this rule. Over the course of the film, in place of jokes I might add, the movie references Lord of the Rings, The Matrix, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Lord of the Rings, Dr. Phil, Pulp Fiction, those "Wassup" commericals, Lord of the Rings (it references Lord of the Rings a lot), and many many more.

The best animated movies make the vocal performance seamless with the animation, as if the characters are actually talking and not just regurgitating half-assed jokes with all the excitement one may put into doing their taxes. Doogal avoids this problem by making sure it's quite obvious the voices are matching up at all. I mean really, I know it's dubbed and all but could at least make a little bit of an effort to make those voices sync up? It's not like this was an impossible task or anything, from what I hear the British dub manages to do it alright. Instead we get some Godzilla movie realness. Speed Racer cartoons managed to look and sound smoother then this. It also doesn't help that, dubbed or not, the animation looks terrible, just a smidge better than VeggieTales, or a late period N64 game. All the characters are really ugly to look at, particularly Zeebad. Or many it's just that you can hear Jon Stewart's soul dying a little after each of those ice puns he has to make.

Over the credits the movie just shows footage of each actor in the recording studio, giving interviews right out of the DVD Making Of Doogal featurette. They are trying to play it up as if everybody is having a super fun cool time and that these are the kooky bloopers, but really it's just a sigh on top of a fart. The most wacky thing that happens is Jon Stewart messes up a very minor line. This movie was distributed by The Weinstien Company, a studio that does not have a good track record in the animation field. If their other movies are treated like this it's easy to see why. Doogal is what happens when you just don't care. There was no thought, no effort, and more importantly not an ounce of emotion put into this, and it really shows. I almost recommend you go watch it just because it is kind of an experience on it's own, a sort of apathy in action. Will there ever be a movie able to top Doogal's special achievement? In the words of the Doogal Movie Website, "Let’s sse!"

On the Wicker Scale, I'm not going to bother to do this in honor of the movie

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