The Other Side of Animation 220: Dog Gone Trouble Review

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Heads Up!: I was able to view this early with a screener. Thank you, Netflix!

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

I have talked about plenty of studios and over my time of seeing the work from multiple studios, you always wonder what exactly happened behind the scenes. Something I always think about is what is going on with Vanguard Animation. For a few reviews now, I have been encountering their work more and more with Charming and Fe@rless. They are a studio known for some pretty infamous films like ValiantHappily N’Ever AfterSpace ChimpsGnome Alone, and something called Get Squirrely. Their main goal seems to be a studio that can churn out animated films on the lower side of budgets and make something. They don’t go into straight-up mockbuster territory with their films, but I wouldn’t call them high-quality films either. Whether it’s making an obvious Shrek ripoff or something that’s kind of like The Secret Life of Pets, I haven’t found anything of theirs that I would say I like. I don’t know if it’s a rushed production or the fact they don’t have the best writers, directors, or time to polish out more engaging stories, but their lineup of films is completely and consistently lackluster. I’m always rooting for studios to put out good films, but with Vanguard, it seems like it hasn’t happened yet, or cynically speaking, won’t happen. I say this because at least in the US, their last four or so films have been sent directly to Netflix while being in release limbo. That’s no different here with their film Trouble aka, Dog Gone Trouble.


Directed by Kevin Johnson, this film was released elsewhere around the world in 2019 but only got a US release recently with the help of Netflix. As you can tell, Netflix had faith (not) in this being a major release because they had it come out after The Mitchells vs The Machines, and have given it no real marketing or support. It comes off like they release these animated features from the studio because they are easy to pick up for cheap. Either way, I chose this film not just because I got a screener for it, but because it was a real turning point as a studio. It’s like an encapsulation of what I find frustrating about the studio. Let’s dive in! 

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So, we follow a small dog named Trouble, voiced by Sean “Big Sean” Andersen. He is the small puppy that is owned by a wealthy older woman voiced by Betty White. He lives a life of luxury. Sadly, one day, he finds out that his owner passed away. On that same day, the old woman’s niece and nephew, Claire and Norbert, voiced by Marissa Winokur and Joel McHale, arrive to claim their inheritance. Obviously, with a film like this, you know the two are greedy and unlikable to the max, which makes them non-threatening villains and annoying to follow. As they go around and start selling everything inside the mansion (so they are just going to sell all the furniture and live in an empty mansion? okay), they accidentally get rid of Trouble in the back of a moving truck and he is taken away by accident. Trouble falls out of the truck and finds himself lost and alone. He is now a stray and tries to find his way home. What happens next is hard to explain because so much happens. Trouble encounters a young girl who wants to be a singer voiced by Lucy Hale, the two terrible nephews of the old lady realize they can’t have the money if they don’t bond with the dog, and so they hire a hunter to find him named Thurman Sanchez, voiced by Wilmer Valderrama. Trouble encounters a few other dogs named Norm, a bulldog voiced by Seth Rollins, Gizmo, a conspiracy nut Whippet voiced by Damon Wayans Jr., Bella, a nervous Corgi voiced by Olivia Holt, and Tippy, a poodle voiced by Carlos PenaVega. Trouble also befriends a pitbull named Rousey, voiced by Pamela Aldon, and yeah, there is a lot in this story. 

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 So, when I watched this film, I was kind of enjoying elements of it, because it does capture a dog’s confusion of not understanding what happened, and Sean Andersen does put in a few decent moments in the beginning. With that said, this film comes off like so many movies made by Vanguard Animation, they made it because they needed to do something. The story itself doesn’t do a good job capturing elements of the dog and human relationships, or the mannerisms with dogs and other animals. It’s a boring film to watch because the characters are all flat and not that interesting. It’s also really distracting to hear non-voice actors perform alongside professional voice actors. The performances by the celebrities become lackluster compared to the voice actors who, you know, voice characters for a living. The story seems to not know where it wants to go as it meanders a lot after the first act, and it keeps adding in either more characters or keeps breaking the rule of three with other characters like these squirrels in the film voiced by Dee Bradley Baker with one of his more annoying performances. Not because of him, because Dee Bradley Baker is a voice-acting god, but because the squirrels are obnoxious to keep running into. The human subplots also get barely any attention or any development throughout the film. I kept forgetting Lucy Hale’s character wanted to be a singer due to how little it all plays into the overall story. I was either frustrated at the inconsistent acting, bored because of the predictable story, or finding myself wanting to watch other talking animal movies. There are so many that I could recommend over this one. Ya got Lady and the TrampOliver & CompanyIsle of DogsThe Secret Life of Pets 1 & 2Marona’s Fantastic Tale, and Bolt to name a few.  Dog Gone Trouble only offered one thing and that was that Netflix for some reason changed the title from Trouble to Dog Gone Trouble. What does this film offer me that I couldn’t get somewhere else? That’s the problem when you get into animation. I want to see something that I can’t get from anyone else, and if you are offering me something familiar, I want it to be executed enough to not remind me of other films I’m watching or have seen. I’m coming down harsh, but I am getting so tired of watching these films by this studio, and feeling like they made something just because they needed to make something. I feel like that’s a fair argument to make.  

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Animation-wise, this film looks fine, but the fact that this is from Vanguard Animation, 3QU Media, and Cinesite Studios makes me think Vanguard didn’t have as much to do with the film’s animation production. It looks like a higher-budgeted direct-to-video feature, but it does have a lot of what Fe@rless was lacking. For example, it has decent designs, the animation is fairly smooth and expressive, and there are actual textures, shadows, and lighting. It’s jarring to try and understand what exactly happened between this film and their more recent feature. It is competently made. For whatever small budget this film had, the animation is solid. I think the one character who gets the best animation is the hunter Thurman Sanchez. He is the character who, while not perfect, had the best attention given to how he moves and is animated. He almost teeters into the realm of being out of an entirely different animated film compared to the other humans. However, even if I am not intensely critical about the overall animation, there are still a few wonky areas like the fact they rehash one dog model three times in the entire film, but with a different fur texture. I had to double-check to make sure that wasn’t a thing, but it was! The human designs are also okay. They look simple, but that’s the only criticism I have about them. Now, as for the voice work, I am wondering how they got these people. This might be one of the most extreme cases of having celebrities who could have easily been replaced by traditional voice actors. I mean, it’s not like they spent all the money on the celebrities, but they didn’t need about 95% of them. Joel McHale, Sean Andersen, Conrad Vernon, Wilmer Valderrama, Damon Wayans Jr., Seth Rollins, Olivia Holt, Snoop Dog, Betty White, Jason Mraz, Cesar Millan, Ludo Lefebvre, and you get the idea. Most of the actors are character or TV actors with only a handful of major voice actors like Lucy Hale, Pamela Adlon, Dee Bradley Baker, Michelle Ruff, Keith Silverstein, to name a few. They didn’t need some of these celebrities, especially because they only have one or two lines in the entire film. I think Wilmer Valderrama is one of the few having fun alongside the voice actors. Sean Andersen aka Big Sean is fine as the lead, but he’s very wooden. He captures some of the puppy nature at the beginning of the film, but he has a mostly flat performance. The music is also fairly bog-standard and none of the songs add anything to the experience. It makes me wonder if Snoop Dogg, who was a music supervisor for the film and Jason Mraz have any thoughts about the film’s music. 

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I’m coming down hard on this film, and if the team that made this had fun making it, then so be it. I’m not going to rain on that parade. At the end of the day, Dog Gone Trouble is harmless. It’s not great, but I’ve seen so much worse this year. It’s competently made and it’s nothing more harmful than a bargain bin direct-to-video animated film that you would find at Walmart or the checkout line at a grocery store. It’s on Netflix, so it’s not like I paid anything that wasn’t already the prepaid Netflix subscription fee. If you just need something to watch on Netflix since you watched The Mitchells vs. The Machines 100 times already, I guess there is no harm in checking it out. I hope one day, Vanguard gets to make a film that I can sit down and say “hey, I liked it.” For now, it’s just another Vanguard film that is not all that interesting or fun to watch. How about next time, I look at an animated film that’s got quite a fun history and production behind it? Well, it’s hidden behind a screener so you will have to wait and see what happens! I promise I will talk about stuff like Magic Boy and Twice Upon a Time in the future I swear. 


Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!


Rating: Lackluster!

The Other Side of Animation 87: Smurfs: The Lost Village Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this Review!)

There is always a touch of disappointment when a film series starts to get its spirit and identity on track, but then still fumbles and falls off said tracks. For example, today’s review will be of the Smurf’s fourth foray into being translated onto the big screen. Let’s just say that this new movie had one of the biggest hurdles to get over, in terms of being an animated film. How do you succeed after two financially successful, but critically panned live-action ventures? Well, you kind of don’t. While not a huge financial bomb, it’s probably going to be one of the biggest underperforming animated films of 2017.  Well, let’s see what this new animated adventure directed by Kelly Asbury has to offer.

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The story revolves around the single female Smurf among Smurf Village, Smurfette, voiced by Demi Lovato. She doesn’t feel like she has a purpose, whereas everyone else pretty much does. One day, after hanging out with a few friends, she finds out that there might be a lost village hidden within their world. After getting denied the chance by Papa Smurf, voiced by Mandy Patinkin, to go beyond their village, she decides to go off on her own to find this lost village. She is joined by Hefty Smurf, voiced by Joe Manganiello, Clumsy Smurf, voiced by Jack McBrayer, and Brainy Smurf, voiced by Danny Pudi. On their adventure, they must avoid the grasp of the evil wizard Gargamel, voiced by Rainn Wilson. Can they find this lost village? Who inhabits the village? Was there no real surprise to this film since Sony outright said it was a village of female Smurfs?

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Yeah, that’s probably the biggest problem with this film, there is no real surprise or intrigue to it. It’s like watching an Illumination Entertainment film. It has very pretty visuals and good animation, but the story lacks substance, and seems to rely on its star-studded cast more than actual characters. It doesn’t help that Sony spoiled the surprise, but even then, I think everyone knew what the twist would be. Funny enough, the big twist of the all-female village seems wasted in terms of potential and content. They could explore and wonder what caused this split into bigger detail, or find something very creative to do with such a twist. I think the problem is that it happens in the third act, and then you are introduced to a slew of female Smurfs, which I’m sure were brought in for a possible sequel. It’s a shame, since the characters themselves aren’t terrible, and I sort of like Smurf Willow as this more laid back individual, but you don’t get enough time to flesh them outside of their one character trait. I get that they all have one character trait, but Inside Out had characters who were supposed to be one emotion, but they found ways to expand on said personality traits. Unless you know how to execute simple characters, they come off as bland and forgettable. Even the visuals that they showed off in the trailer, while still very vibrant, get pushed aside. I wanted this film to be more like DreamWorks’ Trolls film, since in that movie, they got to show off super creative creatures, lands, and characters.

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I was also distracted by a ton of the actors they got for the film. It’s another example where they could have either gotten a better voice director or super talented voice actors for the characters, but I get it. You want big names for your film, even though as of right now, no one really went to see your movie. It’s a shame too, since while I think voice actors could have been better choices, and I think Demi Lovato or Meghan Trainor were not needed and come off as pointless, I did enjoy the rest of the cast. Mandy Patinkin does a decent Papa Smurf, Joe Manganiello as Hefty was decent, Danny Pudi was a perfect choice for Brainy, Jack McBrayer, while not doing anything new, is fun as Clumsy, Rainn Wilson actually isn’t bad as Gargamel, though I think Hank Azaria did the voice better in the live-action films. Julia Roberts was good as Smurf Willow, Michelle Rodriguez was basically playing herself as Smurf Storm, Ellie Kemper is maybe a tad too annoying as Smurf Blossom, and Ariel Winter as Smurf Lily is pointless. They are doing their best to be these new characters, and I get that voice acting and acting in general is hard, but I don’t see them as the characters. They also do that thing where they bring in a ton of celebrities to do a line or two, like Gordon Ramsay is Baker Smurf, Tituss Burgess is Vanity Smurf, Gabriel Iglesias is Jokey Smurf, Jeff Dunham is Farmer Smurf, and Kelly Asbury is Nosy Smurf. The only two legit voice actors they hired were Frank Welker as Gargamel’s cat Azrael, and Dee Bradley Baker as Gargamel’s pet vulture, Monty.

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So, did I like anything about the movie? Well, I really enjoyed the animation. I consider this to be the best looking Sony Pictures Animated film to date. I love the colors, how the designs stay close to the original source material, and it’s not too Sony Animation-ish where it’s super hyper and it doesn’t take time to breathe. The colors are very vibrant, and when they are able to show off more of the magical stuff of the world, it’s fun to look at. I wish they could have done more than what we got. Even though the humor is very hit-and-miss with a lot of cop-out jokes, I did like the river scene with Gargamel and the Smurfs. Like I said above, while I was still distracted by all the actors in the film, they did their best. I mean, you are getting paid to be in what is essentially an apology letter for the previous two dumpster fires, so I think you would do your best to be invested within your roles.

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Smurfs the Lost Village is definitely leagues better than the live-action films that came out, and it definitely is creative in the visuals department. If you had to watch one Smurfs film, it’s definitely this one. If the story and pacing were better, along with the writing, I think they really could have had a hidden gem, or one of the better surprises in terms of animation. It needed to be more timeless than pandering to most casual moviegoers to leave a better impact. If this was made in Europe, maybe France, had 2D animation, or it was made in the 80s, I think we could have gotten more of an edge or more bite to the overall experience. Sadly, it’s just another dud that may or may not hurt Sony Pictures Animation if their upcoming Emoji Movie tanks as well. If you haven’t seen it yet, I would definitely wait for a rental. I can see some kids enjoying it, but I don’t know how long-lasting this film’s appeal will be, compared to something like The LEGO Batman Movie or My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea has. Maybe pick it up if you find it for cheap when it comes out, but there is no rush to see this film. In fact, how about we take a look at My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea next time? Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed the article, and I will see you all next time!

Rating: Lackluster