The Weinstein Company had a surprise hit on their hands a few weeks ago when the witty Hoodwinked challenged Oscar nominated films for box office potential. It was the first animated release for the new distribution company, so one can only assume they will be watching the progress of Doogal, yet another animation, with quiet optimism.
Played out like a video game built for the kindergarten crowd, Doogal (voiced by young Kenan Thompson) is a candy-loving dog possessed of a knack for creating trouble wherever he roams. He lives in a brightly colored land (again resembling the fantasy landscapes of video games) where things are kept in check by Zebadee, a good wizard with only a head, torso and single spring for a leg. The pup's master (whose name and voice were not included in the amazingly brief press materials) is a sweet young girl that we get to know for a scant few minutes before all heaven freezes over.
The sudden ice age happens thanks to Doogal. It's not until the clumsy canine accidentally shatters the top of a merry-go-round situated in the midst of their village, that the residents realize Zeebad (voiced by Jon Stewart), Zebedee's archrival, has been locked up in the center of the ride. Immediately upon gaining his freedom, the villainous character (who also has a spring in his step), sets out to change the world by icing over everything in sight. He starts with the merry-go-round and consequently traps the all the little children from the town.
According to Zebedee, the only way to get Zeebad to have a meltdown and turn the land green again is to collect three magical diamonds hidden somewhere in the surrounding hills. With this as their goal, Doogal and his talking animal friends along with a yakity train engine (voiced by Jimmy Fallon, William H. Macy, and Whoopi Goldberg) set out to save the day.
This children's movie obviously targets the very youngest of audiences (hence the inclusion of a talking moose with a flatulence problem). However, these same little viewers are likely to be scared by some of the storyline's more intense moments, such as the gang's attempt to cross a perilous pool of lava on a narrow rock bridge and the series of booby-traps at the entrance of a cave. Another scene has the group contending with menacing skeletons. These homages to films like Raiders of the Lost Ark and Lord of the Rings (sadly punned by Zeebad as "Lord of the Springs") are joined with lines from Harry Potter and Star Trek, presumably to entrain the accompanying parents while they wait for the credits to roll.
Without a single moment of surprise or wonder, Doogal not only appears computer animated, but could well be accused of being computer authored. The contrived script is filled with lackluster lines like, "We should just give up," followed by, "No, Brian's right (he's the talking snail)... We need to save the world!" My prediction is the best showing for this film will be in the department stores' DVD bargain bins.