“Rock Dog” stars Luke Wilson, J. K. Simmons, Eddie Izzard, Lewis Black, Kenan Thompson, Mae Whitman, Jorge Garcia, Matt Dillon, and Sam Elliott. Released on February 24, 2017, the film is about a young Tibetan Mastiff who dreams of becoming a rock musician.
The film is directed by Ash Brannon, who served as a story artist for films like Toy Story and as a co-director for Toy Story 2 and Surf’s Up. It is based on the Chinese graphic novel “Tibetan Rock Dog” by Zheng Jun. The film was released first in China on July 8, 2016, but for this review, I’m counting it as a 2017 release. Throughout the years in film, we experience several animated features that weren’t made by some popular animation studios like Disney and Pixar. They have the tendency to be below average, average, or slightly above average, depending on your taste. Sure, they’re doing their part in entertaining the little ones while expressing good messages, but they always seem to fall short of what the popular animation studios have to offer. While the marketing does look good, my expectations for this one were pretty low despite its well-known cast and the fact that I love watching animated films. With that said, does this film have enough rock power to generate some fun for the whole family, or will it wind up becoming 2017’s Norm of the North? The answer: Neither.
Like Zootopia and Sing, the film features anthropomorphic animals because apparently, kids couldn’t get enough of those cute animals who act like humans. However, compared to those two, this one didn’t strike the right amount of chords. One particular reason would have to be the story. It got off to a good start, but then as soon as Bodi (voiced by Luke Wilson) enters the city, it slowly started to fizzle out all the way through the entire film. There were some moments that I enjoyed, and it had a good message for the kids, but the film’s predictable plot and lazy third act prevented that message from being more thought-provoking. It doesn’t quite help that it had a few characters that weren’t that strong nor memorable. Now, before you start jumping to conclusions, I did find a couple of things that were tolerable. The cast offers plenty of familiar voices, such as Luke Wilson, who gives off a likable performance as Bodi, J. K. Simmons, who happens to be a good fit as Bodi’s strict father, Lewis Black, who voices Linnux (the weak antagonist), and Sam Elliot as Fleetwood Yak. Another thing that I liked was the film’s animation. There were some parts that felt like it should be made as a direct-to-DVD film, but compared to the animation from Norm of the North, it’s very nice to look at during some sequences. It’s not as grand or creative as the other popular animated films, but for the most part, the animation was simply passable without falling into the ‘bad’ category.
Overall, “Rock Dog” wasn’t able to rock as hard as it needed it to be due to its predictable story, its weak third act, and average characters. What saved it from being a total bummer was the voice performances and its passable use of animation. I do feel that kids and their parents are going to enjoy this film for its humor and its cute message, but compared to the other animated films that feature animals that walk and talk like us, this one doesn’t make the cut. If you’re still thinking about seeing it, then I would say it’s worth a rental, but don’t expect it to be as good as Lego Batman.