I’m a big fan of animated movies. I particularly like pictures that work on multiple levels. They have a good story and interesting characters that the kids can get into, with jokes, puns, and references that adults can appreciate and enjoy. Doogal takes an interesting approach, abandoning any kind of interesting story and going straight for jokes and references way over the heads of the appropriate age group for this Rated-G film. Lesson one Doogal - those gags don’t work if you don’t have an interesting enough story to draw the children in the first place. Adults would rather see The Matrix over a Matrix gag; proven by the fact that on opening day only six people were in the theater to see the movie during a prime showing – three kids, two parents, and one now-extremely jaded film critic.

The movie attempts to prove the power of friendship as a group of friends gathers together to try and save the world from being frozen by the evil wizard Zeebad. You know he’s evil because he looks just like the good wizard Zebedee, only he’s a different color. Doogal, a candy loving sheepdog, accidentally frees Zeebad from his mystical prison, leaving the evil wizard in an attempt to get his hands on three diamonds that will give him the power to freeze the sun. When Zeebad defeats Zebedee, it’s up to the title character and his friends to get to the diamonds first and stop him.

The first thing anyone is usually going to notice about an animated movie is the animation. This film uses very primary preschool looking imagery setting up the movie for an extremely young audience. The animal characters look like “Veggie Tales” crossed with Precious Moments, and I wonder why the studio bothered with computer animation. Because the visual style looks like it’s intended for such a young audience, the movie probably could have gotten away with low budget hand drawn animation consisting of squiggles and scribbles. To be fair, the images do look cool in some of the environments and when the wizards duel, but otherwise it’s a very simple appearance. I guess it keeps the audience from questioning the spring loaded wizard characters though, which is good since the movie doesn’t go far to explain anything in the story.

The worst visual sin, however, is that the characters don’t match up with the voices provided for them. Voices don’t match the attitude or look of a character, or the mouth doesn’t match up (or even move) at times. This is because Doogal is actually a French film put out in 2005 as The Magic Roundabout. No doubt the animation was intended for the original French voices, which were already translated once into English, making the cast of Doogal the third voices to be applied to the characters.

So the visuals aren’t dazzling, but the movie has a star-studded cast that keeps you laughing in the aisles, right? Sadly, no. While the vocal cast is laden with celebrities, they aren’t exactly your “A”-listers and the voices are used so ineffectively that even usually recognizable voices like William H. Macy seem bland and left me unaware of who was voicing the part until the end credits. The same is true of fellow cast members Ian McKellen, Kevin Smith, and Jimmy Fallon. What’s really sad about all of this is that the first English-speaking cast of the movie used bigger names like Bill Nighy instead of Jimmy Fallon, or Tom Baker instead of Jon Stewart. What was wrong with keeping those voices? Were they too British and proper for a movie thats biggest laughs come from a flatulent moose?

And so we return to that – the quality of the gags used in the film’s weak story. Yes, Kevin Smith plays a moose that can’t appear on screen without letting one rip. As much as I’m usually against base forms of humor like that in children’s movies, it’s really the only thing the kids have to laugh at (and what all three kids were talking about as they left my showing of the movie). As I mentioned before, the film takes advantage of the quest theme at its core story to make as many references to other movies as possible. I’m not against that idea but Doogal broadcasts the jokes almost a minute before they finally pay off. I sat watching the two wizards fighting as Zebedee (Ian McKellen) urged Doogal and company to continue their quest and knew the inevitable Lord of the Rings joke was coming. Sure enough, a minute later there it was. It’s no surprise the movie undermines so many of its own jokes though – many bits that would have been considered funny were ruined by the short cartoon that appeared before the film, “Gopher Broke”, that used the exact same gags.

So Doogal has poor visuals, a terrible story, and only fart jokes to entertain the kiddies. I don’t think that’s enough to explain that calling this movie horrible really is an insult to other horrible movies I’ve seen though, so I’ll end with this thought - Doogal proudly joins less then half a dozen other films I’ve seen over the span of my life that I actually wanted to walk out in the middle of, the last of which was Son of the Mask. With company like that, I can’t recommend Doogal to anyone.