“Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero” stars Logan Lerman, Helena Bonham Carter, Gérard Depardieu, Jim Pharr, Jordan Beck, and Jason Ezzell. Released on April 13, 2018, the film is about a Boston Terrier stray who joins the military during World War I.
The film is directed by Richard Lanni. There are many historical war films that are made for adults and teenagers due to their disturbing amount of violence and themes. There hasn’t been one that is considered suitable for a younger audience…until now. Today, I will be looking at this family-friendly adventure that is based on the real-life accomplishments of Sergeant Stubby, a Boston Terrier who, despite any formal training, helps the 26th Infantry Division survive World War I. This film comes from Fun Academy Motion Pictures, a new production studio that could provide some educational values based on its name, and so far, it’s been getting plenty of good reviews from critics. However, the glowing reception wasn’t enough to draw a bunch of kids and their parents away from the likes of “Sherlock Gnomes” and “Rampage”. Is it something that they should reconsider?
The film chronicles the real-life events surrounding Stubby and his new U.S. Army companion, Robert Conroy (Lerman), before, during, and after World War I as narrated by Robert’s sister, Margaret (Bonham Carter). Unlike most films that take place during the war, “Sgt. Stubby” offers an educational, kid-friendly portrayal of the historical event as well as the charming bond between Stubby and the members of the 26th Infantry Division, aka the “Yankee Division”. If you’re going into this film expecting a masterpiece, then you’re already setting yourself up for disappointment. This is a simple and cuddly take on the subject matter made for people who experienced World War I themselves, people who love dogs, and kids who are too lazy to read a history book. Although, I would say that the film’s amount of simplicity prevented its storytelling from gathering emotion, both from the relationship of the characters and the war itself. There were also a few scenes that felt a bit rushed, especially the first act. Despite these flaws, the film was able to accomplish its goal of teaching the young ones about the experiences of World War I while providing a respectable amount of charm and entertainment. The performances of the voice cast were pretty decent, including Lerman as Robert and Depardieu as Gaston Baptiste, a French Poilu who assists Stubby and Robert. Bonham Carter also made a good impression as the narrator despite her character not being shown throughout the entire duration of the film. The animation was provided by Mikros Image, the same company who did animation work on films like “Captain Underpants”, “The Little Prince”, and last month’s “Sherlock Gnomes”. While not as immersive or highly-detailed as the former two, the animation in “Sgt. Stubby” did its part in portraying its environment in a simple and non-cartoonish way.
Overall, “Sgt. Stubby” has the charm and the dignity of the most decorated war dog in U.S. history, but the simplicity in its storytelling and characters may cost itself a few badges. It’s not a perfect representation of Stubby’s accomplishments during World War I nor is it a war masterpiece like “Saving Private Ryan” or “Hacksaw Ridge”, but for what it is and what it’s supposed to do, it’s a suitable film made for elementary and middle school viewing. It’s a cute movie that I wouldn’t mind watching again at home, although it would be a tough sell to those who prefer emotional stories in war movies.