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All Dogs Go to Heaven

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Released
July 23rd, 2012
Running time
13:57
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Nostalgia Chick: Say what you want about the 80s, but you have to give it to kids' movies. They were a lot less...one note. Race parables with foxes and hounds (shows clip from The Fox and the Hound), the Russian-Jewish immigrant experience with mice (shows clip from An American Tail), a dinosaur road trip into Heaven (shows clip from The Land Before Time), Lord of the Rings ripoffs (image of The Black Cauldron poster), this...mess (image of Heavy Metal poster). If you were born between the years of 1980 and 1990, and...well after that, Don Bluth was likely an integral part of your childhood. And while there were and remain a lot of people that may attain that The Secret of NIMH is his best movie, I'm not sure I agree.

The Great Owl: Brisby? Mrs. Jonathan Brisby?

NCh (voiceover): The last time we talked about Don Bluth was three years ago when we shat all over his biggest movie success as a hollow sellout, Anastasia.

NCh: Now, this was his only profitable film from that decade, which followed a string of films which were... (images for Rock-A-Doodle, Thumbelina, A Troll in Central Park, and The Pebble and the Penguin are shown) well, let's be nice and call them weak. (footage from Anastasia is shown) The only one that made decent money was the historical fiction Disney copycat.

(A scene from All Dogs Go to Heaven plays.)

NCh (voiceover): And let me just get it out of the way that I find All Dogs Go to Heaven to be by far Bluth and Goldman's most interesting movie.

(cut back to Nostalgia Chick)

NCh: Possibly also their best. But this film fascinates me particularly because it had a lot of moral grayness in it that you don't see in most Disney movies. At least, up until The Emperor's New Groove.

NCh (voiceover): The main character of Charlie is a sophisticated character, and this is a surprisingly sophisticated film.

(cut back to Nostalgia Chick)

NCh: For a mainstream kid's movie.

(Footage of the film's first ten minutes plays.)

NCh (voiceover): In the first ten minutes alone, we have a prison break, gambling, smoking, lots of drinking. (A Live action video of a dog staring at a glass of O'Doul's is shown.) Which, for dogs in the real world, is just adorable, by the way. In fact, the main character gets drunk off his ass and his business partner fucking assassinates him! And all this in the first ten minutes!

(cut back to Nostalgia Chick)

NCh: So while it has neither the delicate sense of wonder that we saw with Secret of NIMH nor is it the whorish B-grade sellout that we saw with Anastasia, this film feels like a much more personal work to me. In fact, I think it's a very deep allegory.

(Footage from An American Tail is shown.)

NCh (voiceover): We see something similar with An American Tail, which draws a much more obvious parallel with Russian Cossacks and the programs to cats and mice. It kind of loses me on the tragic of the Russian-Jewish immigrant and evil cat allegory with the big, silly rat thing (the Giant Mouse of Minsk) at the end and the fact that the mice ostensibly... win?

(Warren T. Rat and his cronies are chased by the Giant Mouse of Minsk. An arrow points out the fact that it's even labeled.)

NCh: Unlike All Dogs Go to Heaven, which has a deep multi-layered spiritual allegory. One that details to us the fall of man and takes us on a journey. How he is cast out of paradise and into the wilderness. And his redemption, which comes only through the greatest of sacrifice. And it does so with singing dogs...that gamble. Allow me to explain.

NCh (voiceover): The plot is this: It takes place in New Orleans, where it is always Mardi Gras, where Charlie B. Barkin escapes from prison to the casino he co-owns with his partner Carface -- so named because he's in a car...and he has a face. Carface, not wanting the liability of the escaped convict Charlie, gets him drunk and kills him. And Charlie dies, learning that all dogs get a "get-out-of-jail-free" card just by virtue of being a dog.

Annabelle: All dogs go to Heaven because, unlike people, dogs are naturally good and loyal and kind.

NCh (voiceover): Unimpressed with Heaven and wanting revenge against Carface, Charlie rejects eternity in paradise and winds back his life watch. Wondering how Carface's business got so profitable without Charlie, he finds out that Carface has procured a young Snow White-looking orphan (Anne-Marie) who can talk to animals.

Charlie: Where are your parents?

Anne-Marie: I'm an orphan.

NCh (voiceover): And he uses her to find out which rat is likely to win races. And she, of course, desperately wants to be adopted.

Charlie: If you're serious about this mommy and daddy business, you're going to need dough of your own.

NCh (voiceover, mimicking Charlie): You need some capital if you wanna catch someone's eye. You know, get a dowry.

NCh (voiceover): Despite promising Anne-Marie find adoptive parents, Charlie uses her in pretty much the same way Carface does to win bets and races so they can... play in a big Uncle Scrooge money pit.

(Charlie, Itchy, and Anne-Marie, disguised as a tall person, walk up to the bookie to place a bet.)

Anne-Marie: I wanna make a bet, please.

(The bookie looks awestruck as the three try to keep themselves from being exposed.)

NCh (voiceover): Uhh...yeah, this looks legit. As the film goes on, Charlie becomes more attached to Anne-Marie, who grows more impatient with his failure to get her adopted.

Anne-Marie: This is the most beautiful house I've ever seen.

Kate: Thank you, Anne-Marie.

NCh (voiceover, mimicking Kate): Well, it's a good thing we have all this money, which we have, because we never had a kid.

(cut back to Nostalgia Chick)

NCh: But what's really at stake in the narrative of this film...but Charlie's immortal soul? (nods) That's right. And that is honestly what kind of fascinates me about this film. Particularly, a scene that happens towards the middle...

(We are shown that Charlie is having a nightmare in which he is thrown deep into the bowels of Hell itself.)

NCh (voiceover): ...where Charlie dreams about his eternal punishment for rejecting Heaven. And it's not just like insinuative Hell, it's like...Hell. And it keeps going...and going.

(Charlie lands on a freakish skeletal boat on a river of lava. The dragon-like skeleton piloting the boat frightens him.)

NCh (voiceover): Oh...oh, yeah.

(The boat drifts across the waves of lava, and from the depths of the fiery pits rises a Hellhound, who creates imp-like creatures that terrorize Charlie.)

NCh: (gives thumbs up) Yeah, the kids love it.

NCh (voiceover): And Charlie is no misunderstood, peachy keen, gruff hero-with-a-heart-of-gold-like beast. Early on, the film establishes that Charlie is not the most considerate or the easiest to work with.

Charlie: You've put on a little weight. I told you to stay off those sweets.

NCh (voiceover): Even his sidekick, Itchy, is kind of a douche.

Itchy: Maybe horses is too stupid to talk.

(Stella, a female racing horse, overhears Itchy. She whinnies angrily as she knocks Itchy to the ground.)

NCh (voiceover): So the film doesn't softball characters with bad morals. They're genuine dynamic characters with actual character arts, not to mention Bluth stapled Dom DeLuise's best performance in any of Bluth's movies.

Itchy: And she wants we should feed the poor. And the whole while, I'm thinking this is stupid! She's gonna get us killed! But I stayed, because...I'm your friend.

NCh: Of course, the film isn't without its...flaws. The...songs leave something to be desired.

Dogs: ♪ You can't keep a good dog down. Wow-wow-wow-wow. ♪

Charlie: ♪ I've seen pain and hurt. ♪

Itchy: That's right.

Charlie: ♪ I've eaten dirt. ♪

NCh (voiceover): Yeah. And at some point, somebody said, "You know what? Burt Reynolds needs to star in an animated musical where he sings lots. He's so good at singing."

(cut back to Nostalgia Chick)

NCh: Why did that keep happening, 80s?

(A scene from the musical comedy The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas is shown, then the scene cuts to "Soon You'll Come Home".)

NCh (voiceover): ♪ ...And you'll let me drive your car... ♪

NCh: Also, we know it's not an 80s kids' movie without a bit of...well, this.

Itchy: Even a bit of Siam.

(The word "WHY" appears onscreen.)

NCh: Speaking of which, I guess we'd better talk about that alligator.

Gator King: ♪ Let's make music together. Let's make sweet harmony. ♪

NCh (voiceover): So this happens in the second half of the movie, right after Carface's second murder attempt. They fall through this floor, and...boom...this.

(A bunch of rats and mice dressed like native tribesmen are carrying Charlie and Anne-Marie in cages.)

Charlie: What did they say? Tell them to give me back my watch!

Anne-Marie: I can't, Charlie. They talk funny.

NCh: Oh.

(A giant alligator with a bone ornament through his nostrils come toward Charlie's cage.)

NCh (voiceover): Then, all of a sudden, there's this giant fucking alligator, and he's like, "Oh, I'm gonna eat the shit outta you!" And what saves Charlie but Burt Reynolds' gorgeous, peerless singing voice?

(As the alligator king starts to close his jaws, Charlie lets out a howl.)

NCh (voiceover): And then all of a sudden, this is going on, and all of that clam and diving and synchronized swimming, and it -- and it's the most bizarre.

Gator King: ♪ We are birds of a feather, looking for the right key. Oh, let’s make music together, baby. ♪

(The following text appears on screen: "A Big Lipped Alligator Moment: comes right out of nowhere, has little/no bearing plot, is totally dissonant from the rest of the film, after it is over, no one ever speaks of it again".)

NCh: Like it's not even a little bit set up. Like at no point in the film does anyone go, "Beware the monster what lives beneath the streets of New Orleans and has fantastic musical numbers, by the way." (vo) Nope, he just shows up. And after the scene ends, he is gone, never to be mentioned by any of the characters. The only narrative purpose this scene serves is to get Anne-Marie sick, so she can be even more sad and helpless.

(cut back to Nostalgia Chick)

NCh: Now, there have been those who have pointed out that the original Big Lipped Alligator Moment was not actually a Big Lipped Alligator Moment, because the big lipped alligator does come back at the end.

(We cut to the Gator King ramming against Carface's ship, and then he is seen chasing after Carface himself.)

NCh (voiceover): Which is to sink the boat the the third act takes place on. And after that, he chases away Carface and presumably eats him and then we never see him again.

(cut back to Nostalgia Chick)

NCh: But the point still stands that the scene comes right out of nowhere, is completely at odds with the tone of the rest of the movie, and after it happens, nobody ever mentions the big monarch of man crush on Burt Reynolds ever again.

Charlie: ♪ Let's make music together... ♪

NCh: But now that we've discussed all the dogs, let us now discuss...the Heaven. All of Don Bluth's films in the 80s had a...light-spirited ritual element to them.

(Several scenes from Don Bluth movies are shown.)

NCh (voiceover): In fact, The Land Before Time was apparently supposed to end with the Great Valley being an allegory for Heaven, and the dinosaurs literally dying. From the guiding mom spirit in Land Before Time to the magic defying of all the science from The Secret of NIMH...

Annabelle: Oh, no, no, no. We know everything.

NCh (voiceover): Except for the plot of this movie. God, I'm obtuse. Or, well, maybe she actually does know what's going on. No, I think she does. I don't buy these line readings, lady.

Annabelle: What's that you have behind your back?

NCh (voiceover): Yeah, she's trolling him. So check that Heaven out. It really is the Heaven a kid might imagine. It's also a denomination free Heaven. There's no God, no Jesus, no Muhammad, no Rama, no flying spaghetti monster. Just this bitch. (An image of a real whippet is shown.) Oh, I mean bitch in that, you know, she's a dog.

(cut back to Nostalgia Chick)

NCh: While this Heaven is kind of distinct in its way, I've never seen a clock-filled Heaven before. It could really be anyone's Heaven. And while, of course, there are those out there that love to wave a flag of "stop analyzing kids movies 'cuz kids are stupid, and so are their movies, apparently"... I maintain that this movie is still a little bit more sophisticated than that. Now, there are those who say that the end is a little bit of a cop out.

NCh (voiceover): Charlie does die saving Anne-Marie, and he does go to Hell. Now, for some reason, Hell was nice enough to let Charlie come back for a minute and say his goodbye to Anne-Marie...like, maybe he, I don't know, did some jury duty or had done some janitor detail or something. Man, that sure was nice of Hell, though. But then Heaven just shows up and zaps that demon. Not even a battle, just..."The power of Christ zaps you, doggie dragon!"

Charlie: You sad I...

Annabelle (voice): Charlie, you gave your life for her.

NCh: And that ends Charlie's story of redemption. But I think there's more to it than that.

Annabelle: ♪ Welcome to doing whatever you wish. ♪

Charlie: You got the wrong guy...

Annabelle: ♪ Laughing and singing all day. ♪

NCh (voiceover): ...Sings the whippet angel. "And that is lame," says Charlie.

(...)

Charlie: He'll be back.

NCh (voiceover): You see, even Carface has the potential to redeem himself from his fallen state.

(Suddenly, Carface appears in Heaven. He tears off his wings and robe and tosses his halo aside.)

Carface: AAAARGH!!! I'LL GET THAT GATOR!!!

NCh (voiceover): Oh. Somebody finally acknowledged that alligator.

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