Tag Archives: Family Film

Cinema-Maniac: Cool Dog (2010) Review

“It’s a kids film” is an easy way to avoid putting effort and criticism in films that are not intended for older audiences. Aside from being a poor excuse to not view a bad film it’s incredibly insulting that there are some who demand very little effort be made for movies specifically targeted toward kids. The film in question today is “Cool Dog” directed by Danny Lerner. Now as a producer I’ve seen some of Lerner films like “The Legend of Hercules”, “Ninja” (2009), “Today You Die” (2005), “Conan the Barbarian” (2011), “The Mechanic” (2011), “Olympus Has Fallen” (2013), and “The Expendables 2 & 3”. His resume is filled with action movies, generally ones that action enthusiasts wouldn’t call decent films even in their respective genre standards. However, he can receive praise for also producing “The Grey Zone” (2001), “Sunday” (1997), and “Edges of the Lord” (2001) which are his best produce films. Ironically, they are also his rare outings from action films. So is a man whose entire career is around producing films generally about a single man killing several others capable of directing a film directly targeted towards kids? Well the answer is clear when you saw the rating and no he can’t.

Cool Dog is about a devoted German shepherd named Rainy attempting to follow his young master Jimmy across the country in New York City. The film begins in the small town of Eagle Rock, Louisiana where Rainy goes around his presumably daily routine of ringing the town bell, helping a cripple man cross the street, and waking up his owner in time to go to school. People in the street refer to this dog as (•_•) , ( •_•)>⌐■-■, (⌐■_■) “Cool Dog”! He’s so cool in fact that everyone refers to Rainy as “Cool Dog”, even if the person is meeting him for the first time. A film opening minutes shouldn’t cast doubt on the audience about its quality which this film does. It introduces a scene where Jimmy and his dad visit their mother grave. It’s pointless since Jimmy and his parents relationship is never a focus in the story of any sort. Before that scene though, Jimmy has to face the harsh reality and move to another State which occurs in the first fifteen minutes. In no way do the writers attempt to incorporate a scene showing an average day for Jimmy in the small town of Eagle Rock. Within those same fifteen minutes Rainy saves a little girl from falling from a train track that goes over a river and is given a parade. Not a whole lot must happen in that small town. That’s saying something for a guy who lived in the uneventful small town of Pittsburg, Kansas for several years.

After the initial first fifteen minutes most of the film is just Rainy journey to find Jimmy in New York. All the direction Rainy needs to get to New York from Louisiana is a postcard. Before even reaching the end of the first act the film has already failed to provide character or conflict worth investing in. Throughout the film (•_•) , ( •_•)>⌐■-■, (⌐■_■) “Cool Dog” is able to perform incredible feats that that no ordinary dog can do in order to get to Jimmy. Rainy is able to play harmonica, banjo, checkers (and win), the piano, understand the English language, knows how to pay for food, has his own I-Pod that he knows how to use which contains the song “Cool Dog”, can skateboard (off-screen), knows how to get to New York by only seeing a single post card, can chew a whole through a door, and is able to drive a boat. Whenever Rainy is involved logic does not apply for he is (•_•) , ( •_•)>⌐■-■, (⌐■_■) “Cool Dog”.

There’s a scene that involves Rainy committing grand theft auto. (⌐■_■), ( •_•)>⌐■-■, (•_•) “Not Cool Dog”. If this were a cartoon accepting Rainy can drive a car (along with other things) would be no issue, but in a live action movie where a little thing call reality that goes against cartoon like behavior. Not only that, but people on the street cheer on (Not) “Cool Dog” while he’s driving a stolen car and somehow manages to do so while putting on sunglasses. This film expects you take the fact that a dog knows driving regulations, knows how to operate a car, knows his way around New York despite never being their, and the audience to be brain dead. Unless the film conveys to the audience in some form it’s meant to be intentionally illogical it’ll be taken as an insult to the audience intelligence.

By the end of the film Rainy gets a key to the city awarded to him by the mayor of New York who also makes Rainy a citizen of New York. The reason being he captures criminals, stops an illegal pet store, and is resurrected from the dead because there’s nothing “Cool Dog” can’t do. The human characters in the film lack development and aren’t as interesting as Rainy. While the human characters never perform feats that requires suspension of disbelief nothing is ever tackle by them. Jimmy constantly complains about the no pet policy in his apartment leading to multiple conversations leading to Jimmy being scolded that it is against the rules. Again, a scene is dedicated to Jimmy going to his mother grave, but the film never bothers to tackle any related issues to it.

Then the landlords of the apartment lack subtlety making the reveal of them running an illegal underground pet store even more obvious. These landlord villains offer plenty of bad jokes, bad slapstick, and a pointless chase scene. Also, the landlords do attempt to sell Jimmy to an oversea buyer. Child trafficking, now there’s some material that’s comedy gold for a film aimed directly at kids. Like everything else involving humans it goes nowhere. Finally comes the token bullies of the film that pick on Jimmy. As oppose to treating Jimmy as a victim of bullying as a subplot it is instead just an annoyance. Even the police in this film are incompetent at their jobs bringing a kid while they chase down Jimmy kidnappers. If you think the police are bad for bringing a child during a car chase then Jimmy parents are far worse since they don’t notice him missing until the end of the film.

Production values are low in this straight to DVD film. What little special effects there are involves cheap CGI effects and practical dog paw effects whenever the German Shepherd is driving, playing the piano, or performing any illogical feat. The editing of the film is unnoticeable with a couple exception where it needlessly incorporate slow motion. There is also usage of some cartoonish sound effects that come across as juvenile, though aren’t used frequently for comedic purposes either. Supporting actors are given little to do performing three actions; performing slapstick, spouting exposition, or telling bad jokes. That’s about it for the supporting cast.

Now since the German Shepherd was trained to perform specific actions it did its job adequately. Jackson Pace delivers his dialogue by whining and spends most of the film being depressed about missing his dog. Restricting Pace ability to display many form of emotions. Michael Pare who plays Kimmy father comes across as stiff and unenthusiastic. One scene that should require Pare to come across sincere when breaking the news to Pace they are moving he shows no emotion. Christa Campbell receives less screen time than Pare and her acting is stiff as well. Rarely being able to deliver certain lines of disdain towards something convincingly. David Jensen sounds like he has a bad case of nasal allergy always sounding like he’s about to sneeze. Finally all Jen Kober is allowed to do is look cranky speaking at times with a high pitch voice. Unfortunately Kober and Jensen are also comedic reliefs hurt by their bad performances. To recap, the German Shepherd is best the actor in this movie.

(•_•) , ( •_•)>⌐■-■, (⌐■_■) “Cool Dog” is a terrible movie especially for kids. It doesn’t feature any sort of vile content, but insulting their intelligence is just as harmful. For instance, it refuses to incorporate the death of a parent into the plot in any form despite being one of the first scenes in the movie. Instead of dealing with the issues of death “Cool Dog” believes it’s much better to show a dog performing over the top feats no ordinary dog can accomplish. Nothing it tries to do is fully committed leaving an empty feeling for the viewers once it’s over. That’s not including the one dimensional characters, plot points that go nowhere, and bad production values that have little thought put into them. “Cool Dog” is nothing more than bad example of how to make a terrible film specifically aimed at kids which is (⌐■_■), ( •_•)>⌐■-■, (•_•) not cool.


Cinema-Maniac: Charlie: A Toy Story (2013) Review

Charlie: A Toy Story is about 10-year-old Caden, along with his golden retriever, Charlie, protecting his dad’s toy shop and greatest invention from the bumbling town bullies. Despite the title this is not a “Toy Story” rip off by any means. It’s more in the liking of “Home Alone”, but even that’s being too generous. Whereas “Home Alone” while juvenile was fun through and through understanding it shouldn’t attempt to be anything it’s not. In “Charlie: A Toy Story” that’s not the case. To the film credit it contains elements that could have made a decent movie; young child protagonist dealing with parental issues, childlike dad learning to grow up with his son, neglectful bully father-son relationship, and a message on family values. All these elements in context work to an extent. Firstly you have a child like dad who always presented as the fun one while the mother is always presented as the serious one. Both parents despite lacking depth are both painted in a positive and negative way. Neither is purely good or bad, but that won’t excuse how cliche their arc turn out. The married couple mostly are shown on uneven grounds, but neither ever become elaborated on. A basic idea that remains basic with a predictable outcome. While a lesson in growing up and realizing your responsibility is a good one so are showing realistic problems with realistic solution.

The second element are the bullies. Now these bullies follows all the rule of being family friendly bullies (an idiot and the leader) resorting to such horrible name calling like dog boy, moron, loser boy, and two usage of the word frickin. VAN DAMME it squeaky clean dialogue! This movie is too innocent in that department. Bullying has become more of an growing issue in recent years and the film representation is too by the numbers. Bullies in this film have lousy name calling, are incredibly inept (I know their kids, but what bully feels actual pain when getting shot with small marshmallow and confetti), and the only solution presented is too set simple traps around the small town. Sounds cool for a climax right? Well once again the film lacks inspiration in that department. Throughout the film the usage of traps have no real pay off even comedically these traps are rather pathetic. As for some backstory at least one of the bully gets somewhat justification for his action. That reason being a neglectful which the film spends far too little time on. Sure it sends the message of doing bad deeds is not the way to get a neglectful parent attention, but does not bother to show the hardship in fixing a family relationship.

The third element I left out intentionally deal with the more supernatural and hinted religious overtone. Wait….what about Charlie? Isn’t he after all the main character? Nope, in the film the name Charlie belongs to a dog who plays no major part in the story. I thought the dog would have come into play as a metaphor for the child protagonist to learn about taking care of another living creature, but it’s just a side kick with no significance in the story. So baring with the film the magical elements are never justified to exist. These magical elements are only here because according to this film “all you gotta do is believe”. Now in the film the child like father creates the ultimate toy. It’s basically a chest (called the “Wondermation”) with the power to create any toy with the power of user imagination. This unexplained magical chest logistics gets a free pass from me since I have to face it how would anyone reasonably explain that working in a real world scenario. However, one thing that is not excusable are the usage of Angels. Yes, a film whose Christian undertone remain subtle comes out of left field with angels. Angles are never hinted at or even mentioned in the film. Not to forget the ending of this scene including angels tonally fits a psychological horror.

Director Gary A. Brown execution of the film is too simple. Everything from its lightning, one note visual style, and acting screams low budget limitations. There is not interesting shot as every shot is either a medium shot, medium long shot, or a close up. Occasionally cinematographer Chuck Hatcher will choose different shot sizes and his lack of effort makes for one dull looking film. Most of the dialogue is delivered awkwardly, either in a halting, tentative manner or in an over-enthusiastic rush. I blame bad direction for the uneven dialogue delivery. Rheagan Wallace for example emotes the right emotion for her one note role speeds through her line delivery. Almost of as if someone just wanted to end filming as soon as possible. The adult actors are fine in all respect. They don’t add much personality to their roles, but do an adequate enough job that it doesn’t feel lazy. Children actors on the other hand are bad. Not on bad direction, but simply because the child actors don’t have any ideas they’re filming a movie. Performance wise they look like they’re having fun filming or bored not doing anything exciting. If you’re the kind of person who can’t stand bad child actors stay away from Raymond Ochoa in this film as his face never seems to change. Music of the film ranges okay to huh? According to the credits actor Tanner Fontana provided a song for the film. Of course I’m going to point out some bad lyrics. It goes like “It’s nap time. To celebrate all the good time. I put it all on the line every day that I’m alive.” I’m utterly speechless with those lyrics.

Charlie: A Toy Story has some heart, but all emotion all lost in a generic execution. While the end result just turned to be generic it wasn’t as bad originally expected. For a straight to dvd family picture its not entirely insulting, its bearable thanks to some solid ideas, and has enough sustain itself to the end. True you could do a lot worse when it comes to family films, but why settle for less regardless of the audience intended.