Disappointing dog story
My wife and I are serious dog lovers (we have an English bulldog named Oliver Hardy and a boxer named Katharine Hepburn), so we couldn’t resist seeing this adult-aimed animated feature based on a book by English man of letters J.R. Ackerley. After about 20 minutes, however, I realized that while there must be 1,000 great dog stories, this is one I don’t care about. I admired the animation and some of the philosophical asides in the tale about a man and his 15-year devotion to his equally devoted German shepherd. Mostly, however, I was eager for the film—with its emphasis on the dog’s bowel and mating attempts—to end so we could get home to our own four-leggeds.
Great horse, conventional film
Some people—including the film-makers—feel that Secretariat was the greatest race horse ever and you can’t resist pulling for Big Red as he goes after racing’s celebrated triple crown. Beyond the basic lure of the Secretariat legend, however, the film itself is corny and conventional. To give the audience someone to root against (it’s hard to make a rival horse a villain), the film-makers devote far too much footage to the rival horse’s arrogant, obnoxious owner. The film does come alive when John Malkovich steps in as a colorful, eccentric horse trainer, but neither he nor the Secretariat story is enough get the film even close to the winner’s circle.
Going against the odds by moving successfully from TV to films and from acting to direction, Clint Eastwood has had a remarkable career, but he is on a losing streak. Except for showcasing the exquisite Cecile De France and a spectacular opening tsunami scene, there is little to recommend this dreary effort. It is the latest step in the “un-doing” of his credibility. “Hereafter” is unfocused, “Invictus” was undramatic and “Changeling” was unwatchable.