on February 24, 2006 by Kim Williamson
From the land of hush-a-bye comes the hush-your-mouth "Doogal," a U.K./French-made feature-length film based on the Swinging Sixties Brit "Magic Roundabout" (and original Gallic entry "Le Manege Enchante") stop-motion TV shorts about the colorful animals and humans living in an Enchanted Village with a carousel, or roundabout, in the central park. Much as Emma Thompson pater Eric Thompson added his own dialogue and character names to the BBC import four decades ago, now The Weinstein Company has overlaid the 2005 "Magic Roundabout" film version—which in England sported the voices of "Dr. Who" vet Tom Baker, Jim Broadbent, Bill Nighy and Robbie Williams—with ever-so-Stateside voices like Jimmy Fallon, Whoopi Goldberg and Chevy Chase and references to "Harry Potter," TV's "CSI" and Vegas' Blue Man Group. Weinstein plans to rename the film as "Sprung!" sproinged into "Doogal," a reworking of Dougal, the original name of the village's long-haired little dog.

Perhaps the key mistake in this telling is the move of a little boy-ized Doogal (voiced by child actor Daniel Tay, providing far different line readings than those of the grumpy, world-weary Dougal) to a sort of solo forefront, even as here his key emotional connection—to the little girl Florence—is severed by the film's opening action, which is the accidental freeing of the evil wizard Zeebad and his freezing of Florence inside a wall of deadly ice around the carousel. For no known reason—we'll cut that to FNKR, to save space—Zeebad wants to arcticize the entire world, which he does with icy bolts that come, FNKR, from his moustache. Seems that, after eons ago defeating and incarcerating Zeebad, good wizard Zebedee had hidden three jewels that, when brought together, FNKR, allow the sun to be frozen. With the help of Zebedee—who like Zeebad, FNKR, bounces around the world on a spring (in the French TV pilot created by Serge Danot and Ivor Wood, Zebedee emerges from a jack-in-the-box, but without that explanation in the film the springs remain an oddity in "Doogal")—the song-loving cow Ermintrude, pining-for-Ermintrude snail Brian, stoner rabbit Dylan (the only character who's as trippy as in the TV shorts), talkative magic Train and the redoubtable Doogal head into wintry wastes to find the diamonds before Zeebad does. Adventures ensue.

The action at close returns to the frozen carousel, where FNKR the placement of the three jewels into the carousel, where two hadn't been before, returns the world to normality; licks from Doogal warm the near-frozen Florence back to life. If only each plex showing "Doogal" had a similar pooch on hand to revive any of the audience who've outgrown 6x outfits. Likewise, were it only the possession of the animators' Softimage technology, like that elsewhere employed by Pixar, that were necessary for CGI success. Here, the wildly hued production and say-again? narrative make for a filmic lollipop pleasing only to tots, who care much more about color and cuteness than about sense and cinema. As for Jon Stewart voicing Zeebad, Jimmy Fallon voicing Dylan, William H. Macy voicing Brian, Chevy Chase voicing Train and Kevin Smith voicing a gassy moose, one thinks, "They did?" Judi Dench as the narrator and Whoopi Goldberg as Ermintrude, along with holdovers from the Brit-version team Ian McKellen as Zebedee and Kylie Minogue as Florence, create—if modestly—more stylish vocals.

Following its first animated release, the animated hit "Hoodwinked," The Weinstein Co. has been bagging CGI projects left and right, including "Hoodwinked" sequel "Hood Vs. Evil," "Igor," "Escape From Planet Earth," "Opus," "The Cricket in Times Square" and a new "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles." They hope to create a mini-animation powerhouse. We hope that "Doogal" represents only a sophomore jinx.

Preceding "Doogal" is an animated short, "Gopher Broke," which though Oscar-nominated carries a limited laugh quotient in its story of a gopher who tries to get his hands on farmland foods. Bob Clampett's Mac and Tosh have nothing to fear here; the "Gopher Broke" telling is so uninspired one doesn't even think of Warner Bros.' Goofy Gophers until later...if at all. Voices by Judi Dench, Daniel Tay, Kylie Minogue, Jon Stewart, Jimmy Fallon, Whoopi Goldberg, William H. Macy, Chevy Chase, Ian McKellen, Kylie Minogue and Kevin Smith. Directed by Jean Duval, Frank Passingham and Dave Borthwick. Written by Paul Bassett Davies, Raoff Sanoussi and Stephane Sanoussi; American adaptation by Butch Hartman. Produced by Laurent Rodon, Pascal Rodon and Claude Gorsky. A Weinstein release. Animated. Rated G. Running time: 80 min.
Tags: computer animation, adaptation, stop-motion animation, animals, UK, Tom Baker, Bill Nighy, Jim Broadbent, Robbie Williams, Jimmy Fallon, Whoopi Goldberg, Chevy Chase, Kevin Smith, Jon Stewart, Kylie Minogue, Judi Dench, William H. Macy, Ian McKellen, Jean Duval, Frank Passingham, Dave Borthwick

read all Reviews »