"All Dogs Go To Heaven": Heaven Help Us! This Is The Best You Can Do?
Fox has recently begun releasing old catalogue MGM titles on Blu-ray, some of Don Bluth’s films among them. All Dogs Go to Heaven was the third Bluth film to spawn a franchise of sequels and a television series, the two before being the more successful The Land Before Time and An American Tail. Did this movie deserve that kind of follow up? No, but neither did Care Bears.
All Dogs Go to Heaven follows Charlie B. Barkin, a con-man (well, a con-dog) with a heart of gold who’s double-crossed by his old partner, a pit bull named Carface, who kills Charlie by getting him run over by a car. Charlie finds himself in heaven because “All dogs go to heaven.” (And by the end of the movie we discover that even evil, lying, cut-throat murderers go to heaven too.) But Charlie can’t stand the place, and brings himself back to life at the cost of never being allowed back into paradise. Along with his pal, Itchy, Charlie befriends an orphan girl named Anne-Marie who can talk to animals, and uses her for his own selfish purposes, namely gambling. He eventually come to genuinely care about the girl, but just then Carface realizes Charlie’s still alive and decides he wants him dead while grabbing the girl to use for himself.
Where to start with this? Let’s look at the positive. The animation is really nice and fluid, the voice cast is pretty much perfect, though I must admit I am disturbed that Dom DeLuise had to keep showing up in Don Bluth films. Anne-Marie is adorable and Carface is pretty scary, and let’s face it, with a ridiculous name like that, it ain’t easy.
I really can’t think of anything else I liked about this film.
But the movie doesn’t necessarily get all that much wrong, either. Sure, the songs range from bland to annoying, and the main character is an unlikable jerk for most of the movie, and we are told that “all dogs go to heaven because all dogs are naturally good” less than a minute after we see a dog murder the main character. But that isn’t really what’s wrong with this movie. The real problem is that it’s just not compelling. I didn’t care about any of the characters, and every attempt to get me to care seemed very manufactured. You’ll have to do more than tell me Anne-Marie is an orphan to get me to care about what happens to her.
This Blu-ray release is also pretty sub-par. It’s no news that MGM is in financial difficulties and can’t draw on Disney-depth money pits to clean up their films, so the Blu-ray transfer is probably as good as it can be, but that isn’t very good at all: grain clouds the screen at all times. The movie also plays in a loop for some reason, with no main menu, only a bland grey pop-up menu. There really aren’t any special features, except for the theatrical trailer. I understand that they couldn’t include the unreleased, PG-rated version of the film because the only known print was stolen (why anyone would want it is beyond me), and making a new featurette would’ve cost them money they don’t have, but couldn’t they have dug up some old interviews or record a commentary? It’s not like Don Bluth is busy doing anything now. And another thing, I don’t really like the packaging either. The screenshots on the back of the case look like they were taken from a VHS, giving it the feel of a bootleg, and the front cover has this ugly big-lipped alligator who’s just a minor character yet takes up a quarter of the cover. The packaging, like the Blu-ray itself, is not easy on the eyes.
All Dogs Go To Heaven came at a turning point in animation history. This was where the tables turned, where Don Bluth began to go downhill and Disney began to enter its Renaissance. After this, Bluth had to catch up with Disney instead of the other way around. All Dogs Go To Heaven is not a bad movie by any means, but it’s still far from good. I can’t honestly recommend the upgrade when the picture quality just isn’t that much improved, and it’s a mediocre movie to begin with. You’re better off sticking with the DVD.