It couldn’t happen to a nicer age group: Kids 12 and under have a bountiful supply of enjoyable movies to choose from these days.
This film, directed by Don (The Land Before Time) Bluth, has a few heavy moments, especially a nightmare vision of hell—where we are pushed by demons into an eternal pit of fire, boys and girls—and a teary death scene.
Still, the plot, not unlike that of Heaven Can Wait, is refreshingly different for a child’s tale. Burt Reynolds, supplying the voice of the hero mongrel, Charlie, and Reynolds’s real-life pal, Dom De Luise, as Charlie’s right-hand dog, Itchy, are an especially lively pair. (These guys act as if they remember radio drama, where the voices had to do all the work.)
Melba Moore, Charles Nelson Reilly, Vic Tayback and Loni Anderson are among the other vocal talents. Judith Barsi, making a quantum leap from her last big role—in Jaws the Revenge—supplies the voice of Anne-Marie, the little girl who is liberated by Charlie and Itchy from a evil bulldog villain. (He has been using her talent for communicating with animals to get some inside rat race information—that’s the kind of rat race you bet on, not the kind you’re always trying to get out of.)
The music is mixed. Some lyrics are shmaltzy: “Whether you’re the boss or someone’s pet/ The more you give, the more you get.” But Reynolds and De Luise have fun with “You Can’t Keep a Good Dog Down,” and “Let’s Make Music Together,” sung by Reynolds with Ken Page, the voice of an apparently gay alligator who seems quite smitten with Charlie, is intriguing in its way.
Charlie, who dies at the beginning but wheedles out a reprieve, finally succumbs at the end. This could be a trauma for small children, though parents who like to find a lesson in this kind of thing will find a tidy one on death and grieving built right in. (G)