CAPSULE: This film may sound at first like MARLEY & ME set in England. However, it probably is not a film you will want to take your children to. Like that film, this film is about a man's relationship with a difficult dog. Much of the relationship is about the dog's excretion of wastes and of the anatomy from which they come. To give you and idea, the film has a song and the title tells a lot: "You Smell My Ass, I Smell Yours". The story is often engaging, but do not expect the charm of most dog stories. Rating: 0 (-4 to +4) or 4/10
I have always been fond of dogs and of stories about dogs. So when I was offered a chance to review prior to its release MY DOG TULIP, an animated film about a man's relationship with his dog, I was quite anxious to do so. I knew that the story was about a man who late in life adopted and abused dog and how he had some problems getting the dog to behave. The plot seemed similar to that of John Grogan's book MARLEY & ME and the film of the same title adapted from that book. Both Marley and Tulip were neurotic dogs who have a hard time adapting to their families. In both cases the humans and the canine have to compromise to get along. I thought the films would have similar appeal, and MY DOG TULIP would be a good family film. The fact that MY DOG TULIP is an animated film makes it more likely to be family fare. That is not true.
MY DOG TULIP is based on a novel by J.R. Ackerley, who also happens to be the main character. Well, let me be clear about this. If there is appeal in MY DOG TULIP it is something the viewer must find for him/herself. Tulip is an irritating loud-barking Alsatian and her master is ignorant of how to raise a dog and to not inflict the dog's bad habits on other people. Most of Ackerley's reminiscences of his dog seem to be related to defecation, urination, and other bodily functions. Tulip is a hard dog to like and Ackerley is a hard human to like. Admittedly when Ackerley adopted Tulip she was eighteen months old and had been abused for much of those eighteen months. She was left alone all day in a too-small fenced-in area. If the dog did anything to alleviate the boredom she was usually punished. As I said, this is probably not a film for the whole family. As a result, Tulip is insecure and feels she has to be over-protective of her new master. That master, Ackerley (voiced by Christopher Plummer, mostly in narration), allows the dog to befoul sidewalks--at least once in front of a grocery--and does not properly clean up. Perhaps I was wrong to expect appeal from the film, but I still think there should have been some charm.
Much of the film is about Ackerley's attempts to breed Tulip. But after all the effort he of necessity is ready to kill the puppies. Surely this plan could have been better considered. That would not be bad if balanced with stories of things that the dog did that were endearing or cute, but there is little that is endearing or cute that Ackerley ever sees in Tulip. It perhaps says something of Ackerley's state of mind that he has no anecdotes that explain his love for the dog. We just infer that he is getting old and would be lonely without the troublesome Tulip. Ackerley is just too self-absorbed to make a good owner for Tulip.
The film is directed and the screenplay written by Czech-born Paul and Sandra Fierlinger. The animation and artwork are very nicely done shifting among four art styles. There are realistic scenes to show Ackerley in the present writing his story; flatter simpler drawings represent his memories; black and white line art is used to show his more distant memories; and his more imaginative thoughts are look like scribbles on a yell notepad. The jazz score is initially a bit oppressive, but calms down later. At its most interesting the film is illuminated by some philosophizing about what a dog sees and thinks.
It is rare that one sees a film that takes so realistic a look at dog ownership, but this film is strong stuff and will be selective in its appeal. I would rate MY DOG TULIP a 0 on the -4 to +4 scale or 4/10.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0843358/
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/my-dog-tulip/
Mark R. Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright 2010 Mark R. Leeper