Space Dogs (2010) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
5Apr/120

Space Dogs (2010)

We finally come to the animated film which, at least at passing glance, looks so bad that it's caused my fellow critics and commentators alike to question my sanity.  Yes, it did look like a horrible direct-to-DVD monstrosity with sub-Playstation modeling quality and the intent of providing an experience at the dead bottom of the uncanny valley.  Now, some time after the credits drew to a close, I reflect on just how accurate these initial reactions were, and how unfair.

Instead of being a studio production churning out a faceless product, Space Dogs is actually a poorly dubbed edit of a Russian film titled Belka & Strelka - Star Dogs.  This doesn't make the film any less of a bland experience, at least after a hallucinatory first act, but helps frame the context of watching Space Dogs.  At the very least, this gives Space Dogs a twinge of American racism that I wasn't expecting.

Don't be misled, this is not a good film, but I can't in good conscious say I disliked it because of how at-odds the animation and dubbing were.  There are no visual indicators indicating the kind of racial stereotypes that come out in the vocal performances and what words made it onto the audio track bear little resemblance to the reality of the film.

I have to use reality very loosely as any film which wraps up stardust, a circus, gangster dogs, and a seesaw into the same five minutes is already out of sync with itself (unless you're watching a forgotten Jodorowsky film).

We enter the film through the framing device of a young pup who was transported from Russia to a JFK-era White House.  That she speaks with a British accent is the first of many weird stereotypical identifiers completely counter-intuitive to the visuals.  But the film isn't about her, so she tells the story of her mom, which I believe is supposed to be both mom and dad but the dubbing keeps getting gender pronouns mixed up, and how she was blasted into space.

Those familiar with the success of the Russian "put animals in orbit" program may get a macabre chuckle out of the quick visual where the statues of all who have come before are set up in honor of their sacrifice.  Heck, there's even a sequence set in a slightly toned down gulag but can't hide it's fascist prison nature.  This could be some darkly funny material in a kid's film, especially since they're the kinds of details which fly right over the young'uns heads, but become instruments of annoying torture here.

The visuals themselves aren't bad and I kind of liked how aggressively ugly it was.  The style is like a low-rent Rango funneled through a Giant Head cheat from the Nintendo 64 Goldeneye.  All that said, whoever was in charge of the dubbing work has some issues to work out, because audio work is racist as hell.

The flies the film cuts to lazy flies on the backs of the dogs frequently and they speak in ridiculously thick Hispanic accents while complaining about the work they have to do.  First off, yowza, second, why did that particular stereotype need to be reinforced?  The entire voice cast is coded the same, anything elegant is British, and in the most bizarre vocal choice the supposedly American heroes (you know because they're rugged) sound like they were channeled through a Chipmunks modulator before being plopped onto the soundtrack.

These are all Russian characters speaking in a film which takes place in Russia but not a single trace of Russian can be heard.  The writing is all in Russian, so is the architecture, but instead whoever is in charge of the dubbing decided to dub all the voices as racist caricatures.  So not only did this get rid of any local flavor and any semblance of plot coherency, but it reconfirmed stereotypes you might see the child of a white supremacist  spout off.

Cultural currency is a strange beast but I didn't expect the people importing a kids film, no matter how spastically put together, to reinforce such negativity.  I was bewildered and lost watching this dub of Space Dogs, the only thing that shined through was the stereotypes.  This probably isn't the blurb the dubbing community wants on their next DVD, but that's what happens when it's a slow week for new releases.

Space Dogs (2010)
Directed by Inna Evlannikova and Svyasoslav Ushakov.

Posted by Andrew

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