All Dogs Go To Heaven (Blu-ray)
Directed by Don Bluth, Dan Kuenster and Gary Goldman
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 84 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 English; Dolby Digital 2.0 Spanish, French
Subtitles: SDH, French
MSRP: $ 19.99
Release Date: March 29, 2011
Review Date: March 31, 2011
When Don Bluth left the Disney company at odds with the style of animation and the tone of the mediocre Disney films being churned out at the time, he vowed his animated works would be radically different, and The Secret of NIMH seemed to herald a more varied approach to animation than what had been the norm. A mere seven years later, however, his All Dogs Go To Heaven seems as bland and uninteresting as what Disney was turning out when he left them. How ironic that the same year Bluth released this dud, Disney’s animation arm was revived with the wondrous The Little Mermaid. (In fact, the two films premiered on the same day in 1989.)
Racketeering dog Charlie B. Barkin (Burt Reynolds) is murdered by his cold-hearted partner in crime Carface (Vic Tayback), and goes straight to heaven (where all dogs go according to the title of the film). There he’s reminded that he’s never done an unselfish thing or good deed for another person, but since he’s not ready for an immortal life yet, he steals his life’s timepiece and rewinds it thus allowing him to return to Earth and carry on. On his return, he meets Anne-Marie (Judith Barsi), an orphan who has the ability to talk to and understand all animals. She’s currently working with Charlie’s old partner Carface to talk to rats who are being raced to find out who’s the next winner, but he steals her away and starts up his own operation with her talking to horses and every other kind of animal who’s part of a sports/gambling operation. He promises that he’ll help her find a family who’ll take her in once they’ve earned enough money to buy her some respectable clothes, but, naturally, he ignores those promises until Anne-Marie leaves, and then it’s a race to rescue her from certain capture at the hands of Carface who wants her back and Charlie dead once and for all.
What possessed Don Bluth to pen (with nine other writers) this turgid story of loser dogs and a little girl with really nowhere to turn? What’s more, he’s made it into a musical with a male and female lead who, charitably speaking, can carry a tune but nothing more and gotten Charles Strouse (who wrote the music for hits like Annie and Bye Bye Birdie but also wrote the scores to a lot more losers than winners on Broadway) to write the most lackluster score attached to an animated musical in quite a while. There really isn’t one outstanding song in the bunch (though with Burt Reynolds’ underwhelming vocal abilities being used on all but two numbers, it’s not surprising none of them caught on), and every number apart from “Let’s Make Music Together” brings the proceedings to a thudding halt. Most of the animation doesn’t have the delicacy or panache of The Secret of NIMH or An American Tail apart from two superb sequences: a nightmare where Charlie is snatched back to heaven to pay for his disobedience and the fiery climax where intricate animation produces quite spectacular sights. But the story itself doesn’t feature any truly endearing characters, and with that deficit and the banal score and uninspired animation, the film truly lacks sparkle and charm.
Burt Reynolds was past the peak of his movie stardom when he voiced the lead in this movie, but that unmistakable smirking cackle of his is overused throughout, and the character doesn’t really have any traits that draw us to him. Even worse is Dom DeLuise, a particular favorite of the Bluth company but here absolutely pointless as Charlie’s blindly loyal cohort. Judith Barsi isn’t a complete loss as the orphan Anne-Marie, but her “Come Home” solo lacks appeal, and the writers haven’t given the character enough personality to overcome Barsi’s limitations as an actress. Vic Tayback makes an evilly one-dimensional villain, and Charles Nelson Reilly is instantly recognizable as his squirming flunky. Ken Page as King Gator wrings every ounce of entertainment out of the only passable number in the show, the aforementioned “Let’s Make Music Together,” but his character arrives late and doesn’t hang around for very long. Melba Moore as the angel who must deal with Charlie likewise doesn’t get many opportunities to show her stuff.
The film has been framed at its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. Initially, the image appears cleaner than the recently released Blu-ray of The Secret of NIMH, but later on, dust specks seem just as prominent as they did in the earlier film. More problematic here, however, is the constant procession of soft shots followed by sharp shots within the same scene. This happens throughout the entire presentation and is far more distracting than it was in The Secret of NIMH. Color is nicely saturated. Black levels are suitably deep, and there is no banding, but the inconsistency of image sharpness is this transfer’s real Achilles heel. The film has been divided into 16 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo sound mix has surprisingly limited fidelity compared to the audio track on The Secret of NIMH. There is less bass on display, dialogue doesn’t have great urgency, and it seems to recede in the mix rather than standing front and center. The music, both the Strouse songs and background score by Ralph Burns, likewise seems tame and timid, not a suitable mix for a musical adventure. There is some nice separation of echoes early on, but impressive effects such as that are few and far between with this disc.
The theatrical trailer is presented in 1080p and runs for 1 ½ minutes.
A promo trailer for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is presented in 1080i.
2.5/5 (not an average)
All Dogs Go To Heaven is a most lackluster and uninspired animated Blu-ray release. With its less-than-appealing characters, a lukewarm song score, and a story that fails to ignite one’s emotions, it’s a sad reminder of just how difficult it is to pull off a really inspired animated movie. Mediocre video and audio encodes also don't recommend this to any but its most ardent fans.