Rock Dog (2017) Summit/Comedy-Adventure RT: 80 minutes Rated PG (action and language) Director: Ash Brannon Screenplay: Ash Brannon and Kurt Voelker Music: Rolfe Kent Release date: February 24, 2017 (US) Cast: Luke Wilson, Eddie Izzard, J.K. Simmons, Lewis Black, Kenan Thompson, Mae Whitman, Jorge Garcia, Matt Dillon, Sam Elliott.
A yak named Fleetwood (Fleetwood Yak, get it?) is as clever as Rock Dog gets. It’s the height of humor in this thoroughly mediocre and entirely disposable computer-animated comedy-adventure that’s not likely to appeal to anybody over the age of 6. The character, voiced by Sam Elliott, is essentially a rift on his character from The Big Lebowski. Anybody who understands either reference is too old for this movie. Similarly, the movie’s target audience won’t get what’s so funny about a barber named Floyd (as in The Andy Griffith Show). Well, the makers had to throw in a little something for the unfortunate parents forced to sit through this with their kids. These might elicit a chuckle or two from bored grownups but the rest of it is strictly kid stuff.
Rock Dog tells the story of Bodi (Wilson, Old School), a young mastiff who’d rather rock out than guard sheep as he was trained to do his entire life. Sporting a wool Sherpa hat, he walks around his mountain village strumming a guitar much to the annoyance of his dad (Simmons, Whiplash) who banned music years before because it was “too distracting”. He believes it directly led to an attack by a gang of wolves. One day, a radio falls from the sky right in front of Bodi. When he hears the beautiful music emanating from it, he takes it as a sign of his true destiny, that he’s meant to go to the city and pursue his dream of being a rock star. His father, softie that he is, buys him a bus ticket and wishes him the best of luck.
Upon arriving in the city, Bodi goes looking for a place called Rock Park so he can find a band to play in. He also wants to take music lessons from Angus Scattergood (Izzard, also heard in The LEGO Batman Movie), a reclusive rock cat with a bad case of songwriter’s block. Meanwhile, Bodi’s journey to the big city is brought to the attention of Linnux (Black, Anger from Inside Out), the disgraced leader of the wolf pack that attacked his village all those many years ago. He still holds a grudge against the dad and orders two of his henchmen to grab Bodi and bring him to his lair. It’s a good thing they’re totally incompetent; otherwise, Bodi might be in real danger.
Directed by Ash Brannon (Surf’s Up), Rock Dog has plenty going on which brings up an interesting question. How can a movie with so many plot threads still be so lifeless? This is most likely due to all of them being underdeveloped. Rock Dog is chock full of half-baked ideas that either go nowhere or get resolved abruptly. Take the bit where Angus finds himself locked out of his mansion and having to rely on the good-natured Bodi for help getting home. This alone might have made for an engaging movie. Like everything else in Rock Dog, writers Brannon and Kurt Voelker wrap it up quickly and move on to the next thing. This might have worked if the movie moved at a wild, frenetic pace but it doesn’t. In fact, Rock Dog doesn’t do much of anything at all. It’s just there. It barely exists.
The animation is, for the most part, flat and unimaginative. It’s the first CA movie in years that’s only being shown in 2D. Even the studio recognizes that it’s not worth the effort converting to 3D. Hell, they didn’t even screen it advance. The voice talents sound like they couldn’t care less. The only one that seems to make anything resembling an effort is Izzard playing the movie’s only mildly interesting character. He’s the one they should have built a movie around. The songs, what few there are, are completely forgettable. You’d think that a movie called Rock Dog would be a full-on musical but it’s not. The title isn’t even accurate as the dog never rocks. Neither does the movie for that matter.
In my review of last fall’s Storks, I calculated that a trip to the movies with three kids costs about $64. I then weighed it against the overall quality of the movie and concluded that it wasn’t worth the money. I feel the same way about Rock Dog. Based on the graphic novel Tibetan Rock Dog by Zheng Jin, it’s more like a rip-off of Zootopia, Sing, Kung Fu Panda and about a dozen other CA movies. It may be lame but at least it’s relatively painless and innocuous. It’s also mercifully short at 80 minutes and since there’s no need to sit through the end credits (no added scenes), you can take away about five or six minutes. All things considered, Rock Dog could have been much worse. Instead, it’s merely inconsequential and instantly forgettable. If your kids really want to see it, tell them to wait two months for the DVD.