Finally the year has rolled around to December, which means new Hallmark films on television and fun family films at the cinemas. Frozen 2 is already taking the box office by storm and it won’t be long until Jumanji: The Next Level comes out. Wedged between the two is StarDog and TurboCat, the first full length animated children’s film from Red Star 3D and the first full length directorial debut from Ben Smith.
It deals with loyal dog Buddy (voiced by Nick Frost – Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) being sent into space by his owner as part of the space program, and due to an accident ending up frozen and waking up fifty years in the future. The world as he knows it has changed: people no longer like animals, and strays are ruthlessly rounded up by Peck, a cop with a real chip on his shoulder.
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Buddy teams up with Felix (Luke Evans – Dracula Untold, Beauty and the Beast) a cat who masquerades as the vigilante TurboCat, in a bid to find his owner. Wacky hijinks ensue and the pair are aided by Cassidy (Gemma Arterton – Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, Quantum of Solace), a rabbit who also heads up a secret organisation that wants to protect stray animals from the humans, and Sinclair (Bill Nighy – Love Actually, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest), a robotic Alfred type character to TurboCat’s Batman.
From that description it sounds as though it is going to be a fun film, full of laughs and action as the mismatched pair have to learn to work together, much like any buddy cop film, but sadly it does not live up to that. Red Star 3D is best known for short films used for attractions and 4D rides, and honestly it shows. Rides at theme parks are typically quite short and if you look at Red Star’s filmography most of their it is around twelve minutes long. StarDog and Turbocat has a run time of ninety minutes and it truly drags for long periods within that time.
There’s a lot within the film that does not feel original, such as a repeated usage of the Puss in Boots big eyes from Shrek to try and get what the characters want, and there is a ‘Kneel Before Zod’ tribute that caused a groan rather than a laugh. There is very little slapstick, usually a staple in a kids’ film to make the younger viewers laugh, and even less humour in it for the adult viewers. Most animated films these days, that long suffering parents have to take their children to, reward adults with humour or references that only they would understand, but this has nothing except for the forced Superman II reference.
On the surface the film looks good but when it comes to key moments the animation never seems to accurately depict the action it is trying to convey. The big-name vocal talent doesn’t save it either, with overly stereotypical characters never quite delivering their full potential. Also, the less said about Nick Frost and Luke Evans’ American accents the better. As Frost said of his accent in a recent interview: “I think time will judge me… and Americans”.
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StarDog and TurboCat was watched with a four year old to make sure that it was not just a jaded adult’s opinion that was so negative, and although she said she enjoyed it it did not hold her attention at all. She frequently wandered off, played with toys and probably missed a lot of the key plot points. Perhaps her judgement of the film was somewhat over generous.
In all honesty, it would probably be best to give this film a miss, but also to hope that there will be better offerings from the studio in the future as this was likely a learning experience for all concerned.
StarDog and TurboCat is released in cinemas on 6th December.