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 203: Charming 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/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!)

Recently, it seems like I have discovered a subsection of animated films that all have one thing in common, they were all in distribution limbo. This means that they originally had a plan or even a distributor to bring over to the states, but something kept them from coming out until much later. This might be a distributor going bankrupt, a controversy giving the film in question a toxic vibe, or the film couldn’t find a distributor. It happens all of the time, and for the sake of this review, I’m talking about newer films that are in this category. Seriously, Animal CrackersDuck Duck GooseRed Shoes and the Seven DwarvesCharmingGnome Alone, and you get the idea. Sadly, while I do support the idea that every film should get a chance to be seen, I think some sit in limbo for a reason. For example, let’s talk about what can be considered Vanguard Animation’s “best” film, Charming

Directed by Ross Venokur, produced by John H. Williams, and finally brought to the states by Netflix, the film was produced by Vanguard Animation, Cinesite, and 3QU Media. It was supposed to be released back in 2017, but came out in 2018 in Spain, Europe, and Africa. Finally, on January 8th, 2021, the film came onto the Netflix service with very little fanfare. Sadly, that is the fate of many of these films outside of Animal Crackers, which had much more success. It doesn’t help either that a lot of this film’s marketing was relying on the fact that the producer worked on Shrek, a franchise that stopped being a thing back in 2011. After a while, you wonder why other films try to be like Shrek when everything was at peak form with Shrek 2 back in 2004. Anyway, what does Charming have to offer for a fantasy comedy? Well, let’s dive right in. 

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The plot of this film is as such. Prince Charming, voiced by Wilmer Valderrama, has been cursed, where women keep falling for him but he feels hollow and in no way shares the same feelings back for every woman. He has until his 21st birthday to break the curse by finding a woman who is his one true love. He is sent on a journey to conquer the curse by his father, King Charming, voiced by Jim Cummings. To help him on this journey, Charming runs into a thief named Lenore, voiced by Demi Lovato, who agrees to help him on this journey, but is contracted by an outside force to do so. Can the two break the curse and also avoid the grasp of the evil queen Nemeny Neverwish, voiced by Nia Vardalos? 

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So, this film’s entire gimmick is that since Prince Charming is a character in multiple fairy tale stories, what if he was all one person? Well, with that kind of gimmick, you could see a lot of potential with a satisfying story and great jokes. Sort of like last year’s Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarves, it feels like a fantasy comedy that’s almost there, but the overall experience is still undercooked. The jokes are there, the sequences are there, but it doesn’t go as far as something like Shrek 2, and even if I wasn’t constantly thinking about a classic fantasy comedy, Charming still feels underdeveloped for that genre. Some characters could have been easy points for comedy. For example, the fairy godmother is voiced by John Cleese, who is nowadays not the greatest person because of his offensive opinions. So, do they do something funny? Well, they have him speak in a faux female voice. That’s not funny. They could have easily let him talk in his normal speaking voice and it would have been funnier than what we got. Granted, any potential of enjoyment of seeing him is gone due to the goodwill he lost, but still. It would have been something. Another example is the equally problematic giant cannibals that the leads run into. Cultural appropriation aside, which is its distinct problem, they have a character who’s a prophet with one blind eye, so her prophecies are only true half of the time. Well, sadly, we have another case of the prophet being played by Sia. Outside of Sia’s recent pushback for her awful comments, her character is only half-realized. They make the prophet quirky, but not much else. Again, there are a few funny lines, but that’s not enough. We also have a villain who isn’t interesting or compelling. She does nothing, and leaves no real lasting impression. 

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It’s frustrating because there are some decent moments and elements of the film. The character chemistry between Charming and Lenore is solid, the animation, for Vanguard’s standards, is probably their best looking visually, and the song Trophy Boy, by Patrick Stump is a real bop of a song, and as I said, the music is solid. The comedy is the strongest element of the film, and while it feels like there are so many missed opportunities with this film, I still found myself laughing a couple of times. Not as much as Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarves, but still more so than most mediocre animated comedies. However, that is the biggest problem. Even when the film is at its best, it falls short. 

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The animation might be better than most Vanguard Animation films, but it still looks cheap with weird physics and movements. It’s a film that doesn’t hide its small budget well. The character designs aren’t all that appealing, and the, well, charming chemistry between the two leads is still undone by terrible and tired tropes that we have seen so many times before. The voice acting is decent, but outside of some of the voice actors attached to this film, the celebrities didn’t do much for me. The jokes might hit a couple of times, but they still fall flat most of the time. I might like the song Trophy Boy, but every other song? I don’t remember the other ones. 

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The overall foundation of the film is not solid enough to hold an entire story, and the writing, animation, and comedy aren’t strong enough to make this a wholly satisfying experience. It’s more frustrating than bad. I can tell by the time this year is done, this won’t be my choice for the worst animated film of 2021 though. I wish it was better because if it had a more cohesive base for jokes and comedy, we could have had a hidden gem. I can see this film may be getting a small cult following, but otherwise, there are better fantasy comedies out there. You could watch Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle or Heaven’s Design Team, and the instant classic, Shrek 2. Oh well, next time, we will be talking about the newest film from an acclaimed studio, and I can’t tell you what it is. Oh well, you will have to find out what it is when it comes out. 


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 193: Fe@rless 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/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!)

2020 has been an underwhelming year for theatrical animation. The obvious reason being COVID-19, and COVID-19 is awful. Everything has either been pushed back or is now having to either do small limited screenings at safe places like drive-thru theaters, or virtual screenings that are only viable through a computer, and requires some tedium and such if you don’t have a smart TV. As an animation critic, it’s not hard to find stuff to review. I have an immense back-catalog of films I need to write reviews for, and I’m a co-host of Tooned Up! podcast where we mostly talk about the TV shows that are on streaming services. Unfortunately, in between the major show releases and the bare-bones film releases, you will have to scavenge for any new features that may go under the radar, for both good and for bad. Guess which side Fe@rless stands on? 

Animated by Vanguard Animation, and directed by Cory Edwards, this is the newest film from the notorious low-budget feature studio that had no real marketing outside of a trailer on “not Netflix”’s main YouTube channel. For some reason, I have searched the internet, and there are no real news stories or press release articles about this film. I learned about it last month before its August 14th release, and to no real shock, the film has very few reviews, and what reviews are there are universally negative. If you want to hear me talk about this film, you can go to this link here to listen to me and my co-hosts talk about it. For now, though, these are my written thoughts and my review of the film. 

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So, how do I explain this story to everyone? We follow our lead, a young male gamer named Reid, voiced by Miles Robbins. He is the only gamer in the known world to get far in a game, Captain Lightspeed, that is notoriously difficult. He beats the second to the final level of the game as the titular hero, voiced by Jadakiss, who also happens to have three babies with superpowers. Well, within the game itself, the villain known as Arcannis, voiced by Miguel J. Pimentel, attempts to steal the babies with his henchman named Fleech, voiced by Tom Kenny. They succeed in kidnapping the babies, but then the babies end up escaping and going through a wormhole. By the way, all of this is happening while Reid is playing the game. Anyway, the wormhole opens up into the real world, and Reid has to take care of the babies, alongside his classmate who he ends up roping into the situation. It’s up to him to protect the babies and avoid the grasp of both the military and Arcannis. 

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So, while the story summary that I have given is as good as I can offer, the film goes out of its way to make this setup way more complicated. The entire story comes off like it’s the first draft of a premise that didn’t have time to go through a second or third run. Why does Captain Lightspeed need to be a videogame character? There is nothing in this film that required him to be a videogame character or having to do with games. He could have easily been a human-like alien from another galaxy. Also, the video game elements don’t come into play a whole lot for the entire story. They are brought up, the film tries to have a “don’t waste your days away playing video games, do more!”, and then the day is saved because Reid played a video game. The film doesn’t do a good job showing off how Captain Lightspeed gets from his video game realm to the real world, and somehow gets connected to one of Reid’s not-shown gamer friends. Another part of the story that doesn’t work is the villain. Arcannis is easily one of the animation world’s most non-threatening villains. He only becomes a threat, because the story, by no will of his own, gives him easy outs in terms of getting far into the plot. The story tries to have something akin to Jack Jack from The Incredibles, but it misses the entire point of Jack Jack’s storyline from the first and second Incredibles film. I know it seems unfair that I’m ripping apart the story of this film, when most bad movies, or films I considered bad, don’t get this kind of under-the-microscope treatment. It’s because in a year where the theatrical film experience has been limited to non-existent, if animated films want to come out this year, then they are going to get critically judged like the rest. It’s also the fact that the characters are bland, and the story is not engaging enough to not make me notice all of the flaws or plot holes. Like how Arcannis does eventually absorb the babies of their powers, but the babies still have their powers during the final fight. So, did Arcannis not absorb all of it? Also, why are Captain Lightspeed’s upgradable weapons, babies with superpowers? Maybe the game he’s in is notoriously difficult, but only because all of your weapons in-game are babies, and babies are, well, not useful in a fight. The film does nothing to keep you invested with the characters, the story, and the writing. This might be yet another Vanguard Animation project, but even then, the studio does have moments where there is a fun idea at hand, like with their still unreleased in the US film Charming. Once again, without really knowing, unless someone from the team wanted to speak up about it to me personally, everything feels like a first draft that got sent into production, and it shows. Everything is so bare-bones from the dialogue, the jokes, to the character dynamics, and how the overall world works. You don’t even see some characters mentioned.

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Speaking of what feels bare-bones and what didn’t get a second or third pass-through, let’s talk about the animation. I know this studio is known for having very small budgets, and you don’t need $75 mil to make a good looking film, but I will not take anyone seriously if they tell me that an Illumination Entertainment film looks worse than Fe@rless. You can make a visually stunning film on a smaller budget, and we saw that with films like On Gaku: Our Sound, but doing straight-up generic-looking CGI fare on a small budget is only going to make the film look worse, and Fe@rless looks awful. It, again, looks like a first run, in terms of animation. They are all very basic textures, movements, designs, and visuals. Normally, other studios would keep rendering, polishing, and doing what they need to in order to make it look visually better, but it’s obvious Vanguard Animation does not have that time or that’s, for some reason, not high priority. It was more important that the budget be used for Lionel Richie royalties than anything else. I know I haven’t talked about the voice cast, and that’s because it’s a mixed-to-mostly-negative bag of thoughts and comments. On one hand, the film has a predominantly black cast, which is rare for animated films, and I think that’s highly commendable. On the other hand, I think only one person gives a decent performance, while everyone else doesn’t know how to act or were given bad direction. Everyone sounds so wooden, bored, or like they aren’t even trying. The only one who is doing anything worth giving credit to is Gabrielle Union, who plays General Blazerhatch. She has one of the few funny or chuckle-worthy lines in the entire film. The problem is that you could have easily gotten voice actors for all of the roles, and they probably would have done a better job with the material. Why the heck did this film even need Susan Sarandon for a voice cameo? It’s a waste of talent that wasn’t used well at all. It’s the most bare-bones example of celebrity stunt casting being used, and the film coming out worst for it. I hate that I have to say that, but the acting is not great in this film. 

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Sometimes, there is a decent line and the character of Captain Lightspeed himself could have been a decent Saturday morning cartoon character, but outside of that, this film is bad. It’s easily the worst animated film I have seen this year, and I wish I didn’t have to say that. Not all animated films are going to be made equally, but after multiple years of seeing nothing but mediocre from Vanguard Animation, it’s disheartening. No real change seems to be at hand with the studio, and the fact that Netflix thought this should have been one of the high points of August is disappointing since Netflix is already under fire for a lot of their business decisions. I would say avoid this film, but I know people already have. If you are 100% curious to check this film out, then do so, but there are so many better films on Netflix and in general that you can watch. Well, we can only go up from here, and you know what? I want to review something I enjoy and it’s time we go back to GKIDS and Keichi Haara with Summer Days with Coo.

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: Blacklist/The Worst