DIR: Nick Moore • WRI: Paul Rose • PRO: Marshall Leviten, Rupert Preston • DOP: Ali Asad • ED: Dan Farrell • DES: Kristian Milsted • MUS: Simon Woodgate • CAST: Olivia Colman, David Walliams, Izzy Meikle-Small
To term any of the past decade’s offerings from Dreamworks, Pixar et al as “just for kids” would be to do a grand disservice to a period of genuine industry innovation. Where teenage-to-adult oriented blockbuster fare can and often is mindless, the most successful of recent “children’s films” often belie the simplicity implied by the term.
It is of course painting with a rather broad brush to section them quite so succinctly, but generally these films fall into one of two categories – that of arched eyebrows and over-the-head references aimed for adults while providing the sights and sounds for the young’uns, or those which weave the two together a bit more tightly, layering the background with storylines that might appeal to adult and infant alike, a la the currently-showing How To Train Your Dragon 2. Done correctly, it is a marriage that serves to strangle cynicism in its cradle and allow for some genuine fun to be had. Done incorrectly, it comes off as condescending, trite and utterly opportunistic.
Enter Pudsey, the dancing dog who recently rocketed to fame on Britain’s Got Talent alongside his owner Ashley. Much like Pudsey himself, the inevitable movie treatment premiering today is a bit of a mongrel, aiming to marry humour and heart with commercial viability. Slightly less like Pudsey, it’s a mixture designed to capture your wallet rather than your heart.
After crossing paths with a family of underdogs heading for a fresh start on a country farm, Pudsey is launched into some parochial intrigue when he discovers their new landlord’s intent to level the cottage and replace it with a shopping complex. It’s the age-old story of money-hungry developers capitalizing on the idyllic innocence of country bumpkins, brought to you by money-hungry producers capitalizing on the unsuspecting innocence of an infant audience.
Bringing something resembling a slavish kind of life to Pudsey is the voice of David Walliams, who channels energy and gusto that only serves to highlight the drab fare on offer in every other area of production. Jessica Hynes is comically under-used as a single mother struggling to cope, and the small town of Chuffington resembles nothing so much as one of the saccharine pastoral utopias in Edgar Wright’s Hot Fuzz or World’s End, where pure evil lurks beneath toothy, neighbourly smiles and sickly-sweet auto-tuned score.
There is much more to be said of this, but to do so would be the critical equivalent of walking up to an overweight toddler and slapping the ice cream cone from his hand, smug in the knowledge that he’ll thank you twenty years from now. If How To Train Your Dragon is full and you’ve already paid for parking, this will serve as suitable anaesthesia for the senses.
And your hopes and dreams.
PG (See IFCO for details)
Pudsey the Dog: The Movie is released on 18th July 2014