All Dogs Go to Heaven
So, the thing with this title as that as a real, true "screening suggestion" from yours truly, I probably jumped the gun on this. I remembered enjoying this when I was a kid, but watching it now, I really didn't get much from it. So, allow me to try to salvage that because if you're at home with kids this could still be okay for certain reasons. But there's no way I'd recommend it any higher than anything else I have on this Don Bluth lineup.
In New Orleans, 1939, we meet dogs Charlie B. Barkin (Burt Reynolds) and his friend, Itchy Itchiford (Dom DeLuise) who escape a pound and return to their casino riverboat. Not wanting to share the profits of the casino with Charlie, his partner, Carface Caruthers (Vic Tayback) makes it clear he wants Charlie out of the picture, so has him killed by a dog named Killer (Charles Nelson Reilly).
Charlie finds himself in Heaven where he's taught by an angel (Melba Moore) that all dogs get into Heaven due to being inherently good and loyal. However, instead of sticking around, Charlie winds back a pocket watch that represents his life in order to come back to life. To this, the angel states that due to such a stunt, he can never come back. Charlie keeps the pocket watch close as he returns to his life, soon finding out that Carface has since obtained a little girl named Anne-Marie (Judith Barsi) who can talk to animals, and therefore rig betting. Charlie and Itchy save her only to use her for their own purposes, while promising to find her a family in return.
Of course this eventually leads to certain moral dilemmas on Charlie's part. We see this very clearly in a somewhat disturbing dream he has of a potential "Doggy Hell", and knowing he can't get back into "Doggy Heaven" is even more disturbing. But perhaps Charlie cares more for little Anne-Marie than he lets on and in the end, it could save his soul. When it's all said and done it is a genuinely odd mishmash of material. It's very much on the cutesy side of things with Anne-Marie, but often opposes that with very grown-up themes like Hell and demons, and even getting into the lifestyle of these gambling, drinking, smoking dogs. It's hard to really say who this movie is actually for.
As a Screening Suggestion, however, I feel I should at least give it more justification. After all, there was something I enjoyed about this as a kid. What could it have been? I suppose if I really dig deep, there are certain aspects of this that introduced me to very real life situations while maintaining an innocence about it. For one, I had a dog at the time, and I actually do think that the way this ends is a heart-string tugger for anyone who has ever had the pleasure of a dog's company. So I suppose it's a good way to dabble in the darker aspects of life without getting too scary for the kids watching. It's not the best movie in Bluth's list, and I'd recommend it as a way to teach your kids about death and what follows, along with the concepts of "good" and "bad" the film carries with it.
As an adult, you won't get much from this other than perhaps a little bit of nostalgia. Even I barely felt that aspect of it, and in truth, it was almost like watching it for the first time all over again. For me, it was an odd combination of things that suggested it was a touch more aimed at adults than kids, but the cutesy side of it gave it that balance. It felt like the movie wanted to be Batman but its mom told it that it needed to be 1960's Batman because anything beyond that was too dark. Other than it being a good way to teach your children about death, it does seem to have a certain appeal for others that I didn't completely get. So if nothing else, it may be worth checking out just to see how much you enjoy it for yourself.... Just be forewarned that the songs are generally pretty bad, so you might want that fast-forward button handy.
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