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!

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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 91: Blame! Review

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In my Patema Inverted review, I talked about why universe building is important, and why you don’t really want to be taken out of the film because the world the film takes place in isn’t well defined. Sometimes, you need to take time to explain certain elements, because while the universe building could be seen as padding or exposition, it needs to make sense. However, if your entire film is just world building and set-up for an even bigger story, then you also need to be careful there. On one side of said spectrum, you have Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which talks about the origin/reboots the universe the franchise takes place in. It might be building up to what happens, but you still care about the characters and hate to see what happens. On the bad side of the spectrum, you have the first G.I. Joe live-action film where it’s not really interesting, has a lot of questionable elements, and doesn’t give us what we want until pretty much the end of the film. So, where does the Netflix-exclusive Blame! come into play? Based off the manga series and the online miniseries, Blame! is the first theatrical film adaptation of the property. It was directed by Hiroyuki Seshita, and was produced by Polygon Pictures, a studio well known for its help with CGI/CGI segments of films like Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, the Disney film Valiant, and the upcoming Godzilla: Monster Planet. I didn’t really see a lot of people get excited or talk about this film, and it got me concerned, since when there is no previews or that many articles talking about it, you wonder why that’s the case. Anyway, how is the actual movie? Well, let’s find out.

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Blame! takes place in a world where the entire earth is covered in giant metal skyscrapers, and there is barely any organic life left. It sucks to be a human in this world, since humans are considered pests by the security system that they ironically made, and are killed on the spot by the security system if they are spotted. Now, the human race is about to go extinct and live in these little settlements. As the viewer, you follow the lead of the film, Killy, voiced by Johnny Yong Bosch, a wandering individual who comes across one of the human settlements, and decides to help them out with the help of a decayed robot scientist. Can they survive? What will they find? Can they avoid the security system or maybe an even more dangerous threat?

blame02Right off the bat, Blame! does a couple of elements excellently. First off, let’s talk about the animation. CGI anime has been a touch controversial, due to the fact that 2D animation is more loved with this medium than CGI, since CGI in anime has been poorly used before, and is still poorly used. An obvious example of bad CGI anime would be the recent Berserk series, since it looks like they just replaced 2D characters with CGI puppets, and either don’t have the time or the effort to make sure they move fluidly. It’s aggravating, since you can understand that CGI animation might be cheaper and could get more jobs for people in that insane working conditions nightmare known as the anime industry. At the same time, CGI just doesn’t have the soul that 2D has, and it never, will unless they were willing to go the Disney/Pixar level quality route. Blame!, on the other hand, has for the most part, pretty good anime-style CGI. No one comes off as puppet-like, nothing is too floaty or cheap, and it makes the action scenes and overall film fun to watch. You can really tell with something like the recent Berserk series when the camera swings around or moves quickly to try and trick the viewer into not spotting the shoddy animation. It makes watching the series tough since you know how good action anime can be. You feel every shot, punch, and strike that are being given to the enemy and the lead characters.

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I think the world building is done pretty well. To me, it stands out, with while being very drab and gray, an interesting concept, since you always hear about how we, as a species can stop overpopulation. Granted, the story does fall into the “the humans forgot to do something, and now the thing we created, wants to kill us” trope, but I could look past that since so many sci-fi-focused products give us that story. I liked that these giant robots that build everything are not bothered by humans, I think it’s scary that there can be killer security robots that can disguise themselves as humans to avoid the barrier keeping the humans safe. I liked how bug-like the security robots moved, and so on. Killy is an interesting character, since he is a cyborg, but he’s left open enough to hopefully see more of him fleshed out in a movie or series. You wonder why this cyborg was made when everything else wants to kill the humans that are still surviving. I will also give Blame! credit, because it pulls off one of the best twists I have seen in not just anime, but animated films. Maybe I could have picked up on it more, but I found the twist to be legit shocking.

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However, this film does fail in a lot of areas. For one, this feels like one of those franchise films that are solely made to set up the universe, and then the second film is what you actually get. I say this because the characters outside of Killy, are really boring. I could care less about what happens to this set of humans. You get every single anime/sci-fi trope you can think of. The only two interesting characters are again, Killy, and the scientist that helps them out. By the end of the film, I had a lingering feeling they were expecting this to be super amazing, and either spawn more films, or a TV series. It gets a bit drab to watch, because the characters fight only two types of enemies. They also do that thing where Killy decides to stay behind to kill something horrifying looking so the rest of the human survivors can escape, but don’t show us the actual fight. Like, don’t do that! Don’t cut away from the most interesting character in the entire film. Nothing else besides the world the film introduces to you leaves a huge impression, and that’s a shame, since I could have seen this being one of the great anime action films. I also felt like some of the anime tropes that are in, well, anime are annoying. For example, why does the scientist, when she gets a new body, get heels? And why does the bigger threat in the film (not spoiling it here) have a skirt? I mean, it’s not that it’s attractive when this threat is killing people point blank with the same weapon Killy uses.

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Blame! is definitely one of the better animated films to come out this year, but in terms of animated films in general, I personally thought it was just okay. It’s nothing ground breaking, it has its moments, but I can’t see myself watching this movie again. It doesn’t have the full-on staying power that something like Ghibli and Hosoda would create and show off. I can’t really say rent it, since it’s a Netflix exclusive, but if you aren’t done watching the new season of House of Cards or Orange is the New Black, maybe give it a look. Though, if you haven’t seen The Little Prince, then watch that first.  Well, that was fun, and before we start heading into some really good movies, I want to tackle one more middling film that shouldn’t be getting a theatrical release, but it is. Next time, we will look at the Google Play exclusive, A Stork’s Journey. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed the review, and I will see you all next time.

Rating: Rent it!