Saturday 27 December 2014

The Three Dogateers (2014)

Don't judge me. I don't mind watching movies aimed at kids. In fact, most of the time they're absolutely on my wavelength, which supports the many times that my wife has accused me of immaturity. The fact that I respond to that accusation by blowing raspberries may further support the idea, but that's beside the point. Anyway, I had another reason for watching The Three Dogateers. Actor Bill Oberst Jr, a hard-working thespian who I always try to support in everything that he does (although, admittedly, he does so much that I struggle to keep up half the time).

Unfortunately, I didn't like this film.

The story concerns three dogs, of course. They've been left home alone when their master (Dean Cain) has to rush off to meet a client. He wants to get there, make his pitch, and get home as quickly as possible, allowing himself time to get everything ready for the Christmas dinner that his partner will be expecting when she walks back through the door. Anyway, while he's away, a couple of robbers break in and help themselves to the tree and gifts. The three dogs (small, white and cute - not exactly the best guard dogs) decide to track the thieves, which results in them eventually being stranded in the middle of nowhere. Who can help them get home in time for Christmas? Perhaps a Santa Claus (Richard Riehle), but only if they can avoid the clutches of a master dogcatcher named Barney Gloatt (Oberst Jr), a man who only needs to catch three more dogs to break a world record.

My Spidey-sense started tingling when I saw how many hats Jesse Baget was wearing on this movie. Not that I dislike Baget. I wasn't even aware of him before this movie, although checking out his filmography has reminded me of a couple of titles that I've been meaning to see at some point. He wrote, directed and co-produced the movie. He also provides two of the main dog voices, with Danielle Judovits providing the third.

That tingling got stronger when the dogs started "talking". I expected them to talk, of course, but I didn't expect the FX work to appear quite so cheap and ill-fitting. You could say that I was naive there, and the film can only work within the budget it has, but I would counter by suggesting that Baget could have gotten around this problem by either a) simply allowing the dogs to be voicing thoughts that only other dogs could hear or b) simply shooting less scenes that put all focus on a dog with CGI mouth movements stuck in front of its face.

The acting style is broad, no doubt about that, and no crime in it either. This is aime squarely at kids. Movements and quirks are exaggerated, with most of the adults appearing onscreen shown to be stumbling, bumbling figures obviously needing help from, or to be outsmarted by, the three dogs. Cain only has a few scenes, and he's over the top in all of them, while Riehle basically comes in for the final third of the movie and has the easier job of playing a mall Santa. Oberst Jr. has the biggest role, and he has fun being a cartoonish villain. My biggest problem with his performance was the accent, which seemed to start off as Eastern European and then switch, at some point, to French. The man usually isn't so inconsistent, which leaves me to wonder whether or not writer-director-producer-dogateer Baget started the movie with one idea and then decided to change things as he went along.

Younger children should be reasonably amused by this, but only if you catch them at just the right time. There are some amusing verbal gags, a few ill-timed farts, and a sequence in which the dogs make good their getaway by driving a car (never mind the physical impossibility of it all - it's teamwork, dammit). And the dogs are cute.

Everyone else should probably give this one a miss.


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  1. Hey Kevin,

    Thank you reviewing the movie, and for noticing my wavering accent! My idea was to make the villain even more ridiculous by giving him a nonsense accent (there's French, German, Russian and a bunch of others in there.) The character was my attempt at a tribute to the Looney Tunes cartoon villains I loved as a kid. Obviously it didn't work, but it was my idea, not Baget's, so I take responsibility.

    Thank you for all you do to encourage those of us who work in indie films and for being a straight shooter. I hope 2015 is a terrific year for you and your family. I'll keep churning 'em out and you keep telling it like it is!

    with appreciation,

    Bill Oberst Jr.

    1. Thank you, sir. I'm sure it won't be long until your name is appearing here again, surely you're due some kind of certificate or award for the hardest working actor in the independent movie biz. If not, I'll nominate you the next time I have a chance.

      All the best to you and yours during this holiday season, and for the year ahead. I look forward to checking out more of your movies whenever I get the chance.

      Kind Regards,