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All Dogs Go to Heaven(1989)
A street-smart dog returns from the dead to seek revenge on his killer, but soon finds a new purpose in life when he meets an orphan girl who can talk to animals.
For more about All Dogs Go to Heaven and the All Dogs Go to Heaven Blu-ray release, see All Dogs Go to Heaven Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on April 20, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Starring: Burt Reynolds, Judith Barsi, Dom DeLuise, Vic Tayback, Charles Nelson Reilly, Melba Moore
Directors: Don Bluth, Gary Goldman, Dan Kuenster
» See full cast & crew
All Dogs Go to Heaven Blu-ray Review
You can never go back... to childhood, that is.
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, April 20, 2011
Don Bluth adamantly believed "children can handle just about anything, so long as you attach a happy ending"; a sentiment that set him apart from his contemporaries, chief among them the animated filmmakers at Walt Disney. It's a sentiment that continues to set his films apart, even some twenty to thirty years after they first implanted themselves in our impressionable little minds. His most beloved classics -- The Secret of NIMH, An American Tail and the original Land Before Time -- remain darkly dreaming treasures that continue to challenge children as readily as each film warms their hearts. Sadly, All Dogs Go to Heaven doesn't resonate nearly as much as Bluth's best. A lesser dose of nostalgia, it has its bleak delights and winning characters, I'll admit. But somewhere between T.J. Kuenster and Charlie Strouse's uninspired musical numbers, its overt boundary-pushing, and a somewhat scattershot script, it isn't as remarkable or monumental a film as its now fully grown fans might remember.
Charlie B. Barkin (Burt Reynolds) isn't a dutiful pup, a loyal companion or man's best friend. If Timmy fell down a well, Charlie would loot the Miller family farm while Lassie was leading her owners to the boy's rescue. A con, a cheat and a scoundrel, Charlie drinks, smokes and gambles his way to an early grave after crossing paws with a gangster named Carface Carruthers (Vic Tayback). But as the title suggests, all dogs, be they saints or sinners, go to heaven, and Bluth's rough-n-tumble antihero soon finds himself in the lap of luxury. Which would all be well and good... if death suited Charlie in the least. Not content to live out his days in the afterlife, the crafty canine swipes his life watch and winds himself back into existence, all the while ignoring his heavenly guide's cries: "you can never come back, Charlie! You can never come back!" On the Earthly plain, Barkin begins plotting his revenge against Carface with the help of his trusty partner-in-crime Itchy Itchiford (Dom DeLuise). Step one? Kidnapping the kingpin's money maker: a sweet-natured orphan named Anne Marie (Judith Barsi) who can talk to animals. But Charlie gets a lot more than he bargained for, including a change of heart.
Regardless of how muddled its story becomes or how quickly Charlie makes the transition from hell-bound hell-hound to selfless savior, All Dogs Go to Heaven still has plenty to offer, despite its age. The film hasn't been blessed with the restoration it deserves (more on that in a bit), but Bluth's animation is as expressive and engrossing today as it was in 1989. Bluth didn't just leave the Disney fold, he left with a vengeance, dead set on proving an animator didn't need to subscribe to the Mouse House's then-prevailing philosophies to make a viable animated feature. Heaven's depiction of 1930s New Orleans will always criticism for its more adult overtones, but its shadiest corners and shiftiest miscreants allow Bluth's animated trio to rise above the muck of their world with fluid friskiness and endearing grace. (Anne Marie's porcelain face and listless eyes, not to mention her potential parents' gangly gaits, are the only eyesores. The irony being that Bluth's dogs are far more human than his human beings.) And with Reynolds at the wheel and DeLuise riding shotgun, Charlie and Itchy are incredibly likable even when the pair are doing their best to be intensely unlikable.
But while Disney had rebounded in the years since Bluth's departure, the Secret of NIMH filmmaker's finest films were already behind him. Not only did 1989's The Little Mermaid cast a heavy shadow over All Dogs Go to Heaven, it put a serious dent in Bluth's reasoning for rejecting his birthright seven years earlier. NIMH, An American Tail and The Land Before Time were seemingly effortless infusions of beauty, creativity, startling themes, smartly penned scripts and poignant storytelling. Heaven, by unfavorable comparison, lacks the spirit, finesse and polish of Bluth's earlier work. Ten people had a hand in David Weiss' screenplay and it shows. The film's pacing slides and stalls, and many children's attentions will drift. Bluth's exotic N'Orleans underworld is full of wild wonders, reptilian monstrosities and smoky secrets, but it lacks cohesion and a sense of purpose. Anne Marie is a bundle of morals perfect for righting Charlie's wayward ship, but without much personality to bolster those morals, her presence is often a detriment. The plot chugs along, taking whatever turns are required, but rarely exudes excitement or adventure. Worse, Bluth and his committee of writers' vision of hell is terrifying; the stuff of lingering childhood nightmares. How is that a bad thing, you ask? Because their vision of heaven is a cliche wrapped inside a yawn tucked within a fleeting dream. It's no wonder Charlie is so desperate to escape. His world may be darker and more dangerous, but it would take the threat of hellfire and brimstone to convince me to spend even a day in Bluth's stale-bread paradise, much less an eternity.
As always though, nostalgia is a wily demon. All Dogs Go to Heaven isn't going to win many new converts, but it will strike a chord with anyone who fell in love with it twenty-two years ago. And considering how eagerly children embrace the films their parents grew up with, even lesser Bluth productions like All Dogs Go to Heaven will live on.
All Dogs Go to Heaven Blu-ray, Video Quality
MGM's 1080p/AVC-encoded video transfer is a scruffy old mutt on its last legs. Bluth's ragtime N'Orleans palette, though far from dull, is dusty, ragged and worn. Contrast is dim, black levels are sickly, primaries are often muzzled, and the whole of the picture is fairly flat and lifeless. Worse, dirt, small scratches, white specks and print blemishes are prevalent, grain is intact but inconsistent, and telecine wobble jostles the image on occasion. If the film has undergone any recent remastering work, it was very, very minimal. Needless to say, no one will mistake this for a Disney presentation. That's not to suggest MGM's Blu-ray release isn't worth some consideration. As is the case with the BD release of The Secret of NIMH, dogged DVD owners will notice a number of marginal improvements: the image is crisper and more colorful than it's ever been before, the lineart itself is slightly sharper and a bit more refined, and the encode is quite proficient (grit and grime may interfere, but artifacting, aliasing and other unsightly technical distractions are held at bay). Ultimately though, those who count All Dogs Go to Heaven among their childhood favorites will be reasonably and rightfully disappointed with the results, even if this is the best the film has ever looked.
All Dogs Go to Heaven Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Heaven's decent DTS-HD Master Audio stereo mix is the highlight of MGM's release, but that isn't saying much. Dialogue is often thin and tinny, voices and effects don't always seem to rest on the same aural plane, and prioritization isn't as impeccable as it could be. Still, nearly every line is clear and intelligible, every backstreet crash and hellspawn roar is nicely represented, and Ralph Burns' swingin' music has all but been resurrected from the dead. As a two-channel mix, there's no LFE output, rear speaker activity, or soundfield to speak of, but as faithful stereo tracks go, it does a fine job handling what little comes its way.
All Dogs Go to Heaven Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The only extra the Blu-ray edition of All Dogs Go to Heaven includes is a theatrical trailer.
All Dogs Go to Heaven Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
All Dogs Go to Heaven isn't Bluth's finest hour, nor is its Blu-ray release MGM's saving grace. Both the film and its high definition debut are afflicted with fatal flaws, and each one suffers accordingly. Its video transfer is cursed with dingy colors, diluted detail and a dusty old print, its DTS-HD Master Audio stereo mix isn't anything to write home about, and its barebones supplemental package is a missed opportunity. The Blu-ray edition may best its DVD counterpart, but any upgrade the disc affords fans will be overshadowed by its shrug-inducing AV presentation and squandered potential.
All Dogs Go to Heaven: Other Editions
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• More MGM Catalog Titles Heading to Blu-ray - February 10, 2011
According to a report from Bill Hunt of TheDigitalBits.com, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment in conjunction with MGM Home Entertainment will release All Dogs Go to Heaven, All Dogs Go to Heaven 2, Picture This, The Secret of the NIMH, Material Girls, Teen Wolf ...
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