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It’s not the worst idea ever to make a film about the first world war as seen through the eyes of an animated dog – presenting history in an accessible, reasonably truthful and blood-free way. No, not the worst idea. But it sure isn’t an easy sell in today’s market, with younger viewers used to superhero and fairy-themed fare. Hats off to the chutzpah of the filmmakers behind this thoughtful if somewhat plodding effort, which will appeal largely to young (or young-at-heart) dog lovers cum budding war historians – not exactly a massive demographic.
Nevertheless, Sgt Stubby: An Unlikely Hero (known in some markets as Sgt Stubby: An American Hero), for a non-mainstream animated feature, is competently crafted: all smooth, computer-milled edges and credible, if stylised, expressions for the human and canine characters alike. The story – based on actual events – starts in 1917 and follows an amiable, squash-faced mutt, whom we meet living rough in New Haven, Connecticut. He attaches himself to young recruit Conroy (voiced by Logan Lerman), after seeing him marching with his unit in the streets. When Conroy can’t seem to shake the persistent pooch, he names him – you guessed it – Stubby and trains the dog to “salute” with his paw on command, winning over the commanding officers and earning Stubby the role of camp mascot.
When Conroy gets shipped overseas to fight in France, Stubby smuggles himself aboard and ends up in the trenches, where he displays remarkable bravery and saves many lives. The dialogue isn’t quite: “Woof! Woof!” “What’s that, boy? Did you say the Boche are about to fire mustard gas on us?” But it’s not far off. Still, Stubby’s minimal anthropomorphism makes him a believably doggy sort of dog, whose expressions and behaviour clearly indicate that the animators spent many hours studying the real thing.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Sgt Stubby: An Unlikely Hero review – first world war canine caper | Film