Bland and unremarkable | Daily News
Arctic Dogs

Bland and unremarkable

There are some animations which the audience should have missed because sitting through such a production for nearly one and half hours feels like a punishment rather than a treat. Aaron Woodly’s ‘Arctic Dogs’ fall under this category.

While there are many animated films that have clearly gone through rigorous story-building processes, ‘Arctic Dogs’ feels like it was generated based on first ideas only, the initial one seemingly being the inexplicable “Let’s make a movie about an artic fox and call it Arctic Dogs”. It’s the only way to explain away just how half-baked everything feels, from the ridiculous central premise that envisions postal working animals as lauded superheroes, to the assortment of lame characters brought to life by A-list performers.

Swifty, an anthropomorphic Arctic Fox who lives in the faraway, icy town of Taigasville. Arctic Foxes are bright white and disappear almost entirely into the snow, so nobody ever seems to notice him. He dreams of one day joining the “Top Dog” delivery service, on which the town’s entire economy depends, and which has elevated heroic huskies Duke, Dakota and Dusty into local celebrities.

Years go by, and Swifty finds a job working for the service, on the conveyor belt, with no hope of advancement because as a fox, he doesn’t reach the weight requirement necessary to pull giant sleds of parcels. But when Otto Von Walrus — an evil walrus with robotic spider legs, backed by an army of aggressive puffins — kidnaps those famous sled dogs, it’s up to Swifty to take over the business, solve the mystery, get over his ego, and save the day.

There’s just the stylistic choices the movie makes and the extra mile details that it doesn’t bother with. You’d think a character like Swifty, who has a particular desire to stand out, would dress in flashy clothes and try to really pop from his environment, but his only costume in the film is an olive parka and grey pants.

There isn’t anything deep or interesting about the roles for the audience to engage with because the film just doesn’t seem to care about providing. Even its attempt to promote the idea of women in STEM fields by having Heidi Kulm’s Jade featured as an engineer falls flat on its face, as its revealed that she has been working with the main villain for years and never bothering to question what she is working on.

The story is best when it’s playful and odd, and only truly pops when Cleese’s eccentric supervillain is on-screen. The rest of the time it’s merely a functional series of events, in which a hero gets what he wanted, briefly becomes a bit of a jerk, and then reverts to heroism when he realizes he’s losing his friends. Most of the comedy is both very broad and painfully unfunny. There’s not much to recommend about this film: the animation lacks texture, the score is overwrought, the plotting is scattershot, and the character design is uninspired. There’s nothing terribly wrong with the plot of ‘Arctic Dogs’ but adults in the audience may find themselves nodding off a bit in the beginning, and the middle, and the late middle.