Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Doggie Movie Review: "My Dog Tulip"

Midterms are eating my soul, and I didn't have my laptop all weekend... sorry this took so long.

My Dog Tulip
Directed by Paul Fierlinger & Sandra Fierlinger, screenplay by Paul Fierlinger & Sandra Fierlinger, based on the novel by J.R. Ackerley

I went to see My Dog Tulip at the Kendall Square Cinema last Tuesday. As a side comment, that movie theater is literally impossible to find if you've never been there.... Anyway, I'm dedicated to being an honest blogger and on that note, there were things (more like one that really stands out) about the movie that I disliked. But all in all, I thought it was very cute, and definitely, definitely something that dog owners can relate to. From a dog owner and someone who spends full days working with dozens of canines, I must say that the film feels like a breath of fresh air -- so many of author J.R. Ackerley's stories are so damned on-point. They're just things we've all been through as dog owners.

Narrated by Christopher Plummer in an agreeable and jolly British accent, My Dog Tulip follows author J.R. Ackerley's experiences with his German shepherd "Tulip," an untamable and passionate pup with a knack for barking and causing a ruckus while staying fiercely loyal to her owner. The film is based on the 1956 novel by Ackerley of the same name.

One brilliant step in the creation of the movie is that it's animated. Short of Disney, Pixar and Disney/Pixar movies, I'm generally not a fan of animated movies. However, in this case, the animation  made the movie hilarious, rendering certain situations considerably more gut-busting. The biting wit of the narration and the funny images made the perfect marriage, and I appreciated the difference between the humorous animation (when the drawings were purposely extremely simple) and the artistic backdrops with elements of light woven into in the animation. At one point, there was a landscape shot of a group of sheep on a hill with stunning shadow detail drawn in. It took true skill to create, and added vital visual interest.

The contrasting simple sketches often likened dogs to humans, dressing them up in human clothes and displaying them walking around on two legs. Drawn in clean black lines on a bare white background, these sketches were were lighthearted and easy, imposed between regular animation to add laughs and further clarification for whatever story was being told at the time.

Now, for my primary reason for recommending this film: the author (and therefore Christopher Plummer as the narrator) uses a sharp and often sarcastic tone that I absolutely love. It's my kind of humor, to say the least -- and narrator Plummer executes every line with cunning skill and a crisp dose of smugness. I literally laughed out loud at multiple lines and animations throughout the movie -- the synthesis of funny animations with hilarious lines was expertly executed -- and the rest of the theater was laughing too. This would be my top reason to go see the My Dog Tulip, and it's a major element setting the film apart as an adult-audience movie rather than a family film about dogs.

This brings me to the rather adult part that I was, to say the least, not fond of. When Tulip is in heat and Ackerley is trying to find her a mate, he makes some blunt, overtly sexual observations and tells stories about his dog's mating process that made me truly uncomfortable. While he mentions most of these things in an almost scientific manner, I didn't want to hear some of the descriptions and stories concerning the sex life of his dog, and felt somewhat disturbed that he found them acceptable to comment on. Of course, this is mostly a criticism of the book, because including it in the movie is only a matter of following the book.

But that's besides the point. To clarify my disillusionment: I see dogs as babies. I'm not a big fan of human babies, and in turn I save all my cooing and baby talk for canines. I act towards dogs as most people act towards small children and infants. As someone who works at a dog daycare, I can confirm that most dog owners think this way -- their dogs are their babies. They want to spoil them and coo at them and what have you; they don't, however, want to think of their "babies" having sex, nor do they want to be involved in the process of them mating, even when their dogs are of appropriate reproducing age. Would you want to think about your child sleeping with someone? I hope the answer is "No." The author, however, seems to have a weird affinity for closely observing his pup's sex life.

But moving on, let's look at My Dog Tulip as a whole -- I really liked this movie. The laughs and sharp humor are enough to deter me from letting the sour taste triggered by the above mentioned issue take over my view of the movie. Check out Landmark Theatres for showtimes in your area -- they have them all over the US, so no matter where you are, you can get your Tulip fix. Or pick up the DVD from a rental shop like Blockbuster, or an online store by clicking hereBonus: somewhere in the movie (I won't reveal where -- you'll just have to go see it), viewers get a special treat and enjoy photos of the real Tulip, who is truly a gorgeous dog.

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