Animal movies are generally considered a safe bet for kids, but recent exploration of Netflix Instant offerings proves that an extra level of vigilance may be necessary before children or animal lovers inadvertently watch something traumatizing. The Korean dognapping movie Hearty Paws 2, which is actually a pretty good movie, is loaded with harrowing scenes of noble dogs in mortal danger. The Chinese-produced, Thailand-set dognapping movie Lucky Dog isn’t a good movie, which is all the more reason to keep children from watching a dirty poodle shoved into a washing machine that is then pushed off a balcony onto a warehouse floor, spitting out a rinse cycle set to Poodle. One hopes that no animals were harmed in the making of this movie, but with untranslated titles there’s no way to verify that this is the case.

I’ve seen worse talking animal movies than Lucky Dog. But I’ve seen a lot of talking animal movies. This adventure film creates a kind of self-contained mangy world, its unusual tone helped by incongruous English dubbing that makes it come off like somebody did a What’s Up, Tiger Lily? on it, taking a bad genre picture and dubbing over whatever English dialogue seemed to match the actors’ mouths. Unfortunately, the dubbing was done without much thought to deliberate humor and with little opportunity for unintended humor.

The movie opens with shots of a poorly-groomed poodle, seemingly filmed from a distance in a manner that suggests the stalking, surveillance-like cinematography of the recent indie film Heaven Knows What. Not unlike that movie, Lucky Dog at least initially focuses on the fringes of society, namely a homeless dog and the Pohs, a brother-sister duo of petty thieves looking for animals to sell to a smuggler.

When the dog speaks (no voice is credited, but who’d want that on their résumé), it makes a running commentary on other dogs in the vein of someone who has just opened up a new recording device and wants to get everything down. But if his dialogue is subpar, the humans don’t fare any better. The movie may sound better, if not exactly good, in its original language, but as dubbed in English, its already suspect characters become obnoxious American types, from the stoner voice given to a tall, burly henchman who works for a company that makes dog food out of stray dogs to the Poh sister whose valley girl inflection suggests a human form of Lumpy Space Princess from “Adventure Time.” If Lucky Dog is watchable at all, it’s thanks to strange “Adventure Time”-ish asides, like the hulking, bald river man who emerges from the water at intervals to ask animal smugglers if they’d like to buy a turtle or a fish. It’s impossible to assess the actors’ talents from this dubbing, but the film’s visuals are muddy, the Poh sister and brother occasionally motorcycling through a rear-projection Bangkok.

The Pohs’ progress is juxtaposed with a spoiled princess looking for an appropriate dog and an appropriate suitor, not necessarily in that order. A curious subtext of identity runs through the movie. When we meet Loh Loh, he’s a poorly groomed street poodle longing for a home, a white poodle with a mangy muzzle, grey and impure. In the dog’s convoluted path to ethnic rehabilitation and subsequent kidnapping, a couple of kids apply face paint to its muzzle, making it appear white as snow, and only then does Loh Loh attract the attention of the spoiled princess. Alas, her would-be princely suitor finds out that the dog is impure and packs it into a front-loading washer to prove his villainous point. Lucky Dog isn’t completely charmless; an epilogue that in the Marvel Cinematic Universe might pass for a stinger reveals the poodle standing on its hind legs and flashing a toothy CGI smile. But it’s perhaps best left to cultural studies students to unpack the movie’s strangely ethnically-minded text.

  • Iceage: Seek Shelter

    Adding yet more wrinkles to their ever-evolving sound, Denmark’s Iceage further solidify t…
  • Oeuvre: Fellini: Nights of Cabiria

    Giulietta Masina's irrepressible personality in the title role makes the film a timeless m…
  • Wrath of Man

    Maybe Ritchie wanted to make a Michael Mann movie, but learned all the wrong lessons. …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Check Also

Various Artists: Belong to the Wind

Connoisseurs of private-press records will be grateful that Forager uncovered a new set of…