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In 1960, as part of the Soviet space programme, a pair of dogs named Belka and Strelka became the first Earth-born creatures to go into orbit and return alive. This, clearly, was a story destined to be retold as a cute kids’ animation; especially if you leave out all the distressing animal abuse detailed in a documentary, also called Space Dogs, released earlier this year. So it’s no surprise that Russian animation studio Kinoatis made Space Dogs back in 2010, nor that they’re continuing the series with this, a third instalment.
Now, after a successful mission to Saturn, the canine cosmonauts are homeward bound when they stumble on an alien spacecraft hovering above the Atlantic Ocean and apparently stealing all the Earth’s water. It’s up to Belka and newly promoted Captain Strelka to come to the planet’s rescue, with the help of their inventive rat pal Lenny.
The English-language dubbing, combined with a script that’s been carelessly translated from the original Russian, means much of the humour necessary to hook in a parent audience doesn’t land. The generally characterless computer animation does feature some highlights – such as a band of singing pirate jellyfish, a psychedelic space garden tended by an elephant-hedgehog hybrid, and a large-bottomed rodent love interest for Lenny. In the main, though, Space Dogs’ weirdness is of the confusing, not amusing, variety.
Given that there’s such a choice of quality, thoughtful and fantastical children’s cinema available, even an extended period of lockdown seems unlikely to throw up the right circumstance for this one. Maybe your kids will get around to it after they’ve worked their way through every Studio Ghibli twice, plus an extended director’s cut of Paw Patrol: The Movie?
• Space Dogs: Return to Earth is released on 11 December in cinemas.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Space Dogs: Return to Earth review – Russian canine astronauts make feeble third go of it | Animation in film