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MOVIE REVIEW

Rock Dog also known as “Kelev mi she'menagen,” “Rock Dog: El Perro Rockero,” “Rock csont,” “Svajoklis Budis,” “Vau Vau zvijezda”

MPAA Rating: PG-Rating (MPAA) for action and language.

Reviewed by: Nicky M. VanValkenburgh
CONTRIBUTOR

Average—somewhat offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Family
Genre:
Animation Family Comedy 3D
Length:
1 hr. 20 min.
Year of Release:
2016
USA Release:
February 24, 2017 (wide—2,050+ theaters)
DVD: May 23, 2017
Copyright, Summit Entertainment, a division of Lionsgate Films click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Summit Entertainment, a division of Lionsgate Films Copyright, Summit Entertainment, a division of Lionsgate Films
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Summit Entertainment, a division of Lionsgate Films

finding your calling in life

trying to make a career in music

music in the Bible

“Go chase your dreams” is not necessarily a good or righteous thing to do. Following Christ involves self-sacrifice, and active love of God and others more than self.

Copyright, Summit Entertainment, a division of Lionsgate Films

problems and vices involved in the rock ‘n’ roll culture, including rebellion, self-gratification, drunkenness, drugs, sexuality

Copyright, Summit Entertainment, a division of Lionsgate Films

anthropomorphizing animals

sheep and wolves in the Bible

Copyright, Summit Entertainment, a division of Lionsgate Films

Kid Explorers™
Adventures in the rainforest! Learn about the Creator of the universe by exploring His marvelous creation. Fun for the whole family with games, activities, stories, answers to children’s questions, color pages, and more! One of the Web’s first and most popular Christian Web sites for children. Nonprofit, evangelical, nondenominational.
Copyright, Summit Entertainment, a division of Lionsgate Films Copyright, Summit Entertainment, a division of Lionsgate Films Copyright, Summit Entertainment, a division of Lionsgate Films Copyright, Summit Entertainment, a division of Lionsgate Films
Featuring: Luke WilsonBodi, a young Tibetan Mastiff (voice)
Eddie IzzardAngus Scattergood, a British cat (voice)
J.K. SimmonsKhampa, Bodi's father (voice)
Lewis Black … Linnux, CEO of Linnux Industries (voice)
Kenan Thompson … Riff, the smallest henchman with the biggest ego in the wolf pack (voice)
Mae Whitman … Darma, a fox (voice)
Jorge Garcia … Germur, a mellow goat and drummer (voice)
Matt DillonTrey, a snow leopard (voice)
Sam Elliott … Fleetwood Yak (voice)
See all »
Director: Ash Brannon—“Surf's Up” (2007), “Toy Story” 1-2
Producer: Mandoo Pictures [China]
Huayi Tencent Entertainment Company [China]
See all »
Distributor: Summit Entertainment, a division of Lionsgate Films

“Rock Dog” is a 3D animated comedy about a dog who wants to be a rock-n-roll musician, despite his father, who wants him to be a sheep herding dog.

The story begins with two Tibetan Mastiff dogs who live on Snow Mountain and protect a herd of sheep. Like “Zootopia,” this movie is an anthropomorphic tale about dogs, sheep and other animals that talk and act like humans.

Evidently, the dog’s job is to guard the village’s sheep from ravenous wolves. The dog leader is Khampa (voiced by J.K. Simmons), and he is grooming his son Bodi (Luke Wilson) to become the next in command. Of course, Bodi wants to do his own thing, and he isn’t sure if that includes protecting sheep.

One day, an airplane flies over Snow Mountain, and some debris falls from the plane. The debris includes some nuts and bolts, and an old radio. Bodi has never seen a radio before, and he thinks it is a magic box. He turns the knobs and stumbles upon a radio station that plays rock music. Bodi loves how the music makes him feel. He runs to the storage barn, and grabs an old guitar from his childhood. In no time, Bodi learns to play the guitar, and he dreams of being a rock ‘n’ roll star.

Pappa Khampa is not happy that Bodi wants to play his guitar instead of guarding sheep. He tries a “scared straight” technique to stop Bodi. When that doesn’t work, Khampa bans all music from Snow Mountain.

To keep the peace, Khampa allows Bodi to take a bus to the city, so that he can follow his dream. However, Khampa warns, “If you fail, you must never speak of music again.”

In the city, Bodi meets other wannabe musicians. They teasingly encourage him to visit a local rock star, Angus Scattergood (Eddie Izzard, ) and ask for music lessons. Angus is a British cat who wears black skinny jeans and dark sunglasses. He lives in a huge mansion and has no time for novice musicians. However, Angus is suffering from a serious case of songwriter’s block. With enormous pressure from his record label to release a new hit single, he hides away in his grandiose mansion with Ozzie, his robot butler, as his only companion. Angus’s mansion is also booby-trapped, which makes for very funny scenes, as Bodi tries to get his attention.

Eventually, Bodi befriends Angus, and they write a blockbuster song called “Glorious.” We don’t hear the complete song until the end of the movie, and then it is fun hearing how it all comes together.

As a subplot, a gang of wolves aim to attack Bodi’s family village of sheep, back on Snow Mountain. Bodi feels conflicted between pursing his dreams in the city, and his sense of duty back home. Bodi also wants to show his Dad that becoming a sheep dog was his Dad’s dream, not his, and that he has a new destiny as a rock dog.

You might be wondering if this is a good movie for the kids. There is some peril, as Bodi is chased down, captured and kidnapped by wolves. At one point, Bodi finds himself inside a boxing ring and must fight against a huge wolf. There are also some scenes of Bodi and his sheep friends being tied up, as wolves plan to barbecue them or eat them alive. Of course, all of this is slapstick violence and not meant to be taken too seriously.

Editor’s Note: Bodi follows the advice he hears from Angus, “Play your guts out. And never stop, even when your dad says stop. Don’t stop.” In doing this, Bodi disobeys and deceives his father.

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father…” —Ephesians 6:1-2a NASB

Obviously, “Rock Dog” is not a Christian film, but it could be said that it reflects the virtue of gratitude. Bodi initially butted heads with his father, and wanted rebelled against authority. However, when Angus Scattergood asks Bodi to summarize his feelings about his home back at Stone Mountain, in one word, Bodi says his community is “glorious.” Bodi lovingly remembers how his Dad cared for him and the sheep. There were many good times back home. Yes, Pappa Khampa was strict sometimes, but he deeply cared for his son. And Bodi realizes that he loves his Dad, too.

The ending of the movie is a climatic scene of Bodi coming to the rescue of his community, and battling the wolves. It is definitely a “kid’s scale” ending. It reminded me of “Spot the Dog” or even “Maisy Mouse”—as the ending has an innocent, almost preschool quality to it. Certainly not a dramatic showdown that we see in Disney movies, where all manner of evil is unleashed against the main characters.

Personally, I liked the movie a lot more than I thought I would. It reminded me of a getting on a ride at Disneyworld, and not knowing what would happen next. The the animation is superb, with eye-popping set design, special effects and colorful characters. I liked the Asian influences in the film. For instance, when Bodi goes to the city, all the street signs are written in Chinese characters. When the characters are hungry, they go out and eat noodles. One character eats french fries with chopsticks. The movie almost gives us an opportunity to step into Asian culture.

Evidently, the movie is loosely autobiographical. The Chinese musician who created the film, Zheng Jun, says his parents were pushing him to go into International Finance, but he wanted to be a rock star. Everything changed when he heard a Bruce Springsteen song. That’s when he decided to go to the city and pursue his dream of becoming a musician.

“Rock Dog” is based on a “graphic novel” written and illustrated by Chinese rock star Zheng Jun. He isn’t well-known in America, but Zheng Jun is one of China’s major rock stars from the mid-1990s. In 2002, Zheng Jen won the MTV China award (International Viewer’s Choice Award) for his hit, “1/3 Dream.”

Sometimes animated movies get “lost in translation” when they’re made overseas and later translated into English. However, “Rock Dog” was produced in America to ensure that Western audiences could relate to the film, and cultural differences would be minimized.

“Rock Dog” originated in China and has Chinese backers, but the film has an American director—Ash Brannon—and was animated by an American studio—Reel FX—the studio responsible for “The Book of Life” (2014) and “Free Birds” (2013). Filmmaker Brannon, who also worked on the “Toy Story” films from Pixar, initially joined the film as a story consultant, and later became the film’s director.

Violence: Moderate / Language: Mild—“bl**dy” (4), “What the…” (uncompleted), “shut up” (2), “nut job,” “nutter,” “knuckleheads,” “idiots,” “stupid,” “fool,” “daft,” “twit,” “cockamamie” / Sex/Nudity: Minor

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—My kids wanted to see this movie. I really didn’t hear much about it, so I didn’t know what to expect. I thoroughly enjoyed it. The characters were very much Disneyesque, but the movie wasn’t Disney. I can’t remember who did it. The characters were cute and funny, and the storyline was very entertaining.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 4
Lisa, age 51 (USA)
Positive—Came to the theater with low expectations and was PLEASANTLY SURPRISED by the strong characters and character development (and humor!), excellent story/plot, good and accelerating pace of the movie, and mostly STRONG MESSAGING about pursuing your passion and using your gifts. I hope lots of families will take the time to enjoy and support this film.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 4½
Mark Matta, age 69 (USA)
Neutral
Neutral—I enjoyed the movie and felt safe to bring my young children (age 5 and 9), based on the reviews here. I just want to point out some elements of the movie worth mentioning.

The movie “Rock Dog” presents a common theme of a young protagonist going off to find himself, despite the repressive opposition of an authoritarian father. Self actualization is portrayed as the highest good, while carrying the baton of one’s heritage, traditions, and learning from a father’s expertise, is seen as more or less a hindrance to the more important goal of fulfilling one’s “true purpose.”

Mind you, the only litmus test for what one’s true purpose might be, is whatever happens to be fun in the moment, whatever makes you feel good. Certainly not the recipe that built rugged America. Then a Hippie-like goat, complete with bead necklace and sweater, a benevolent guru-type character, is apparently the only one who truly cares and accepts Bodi for who he is. In the end, it is Bodi’s music that saves the day, as his father, despite all his preparation and upholding of tradition, is rendered utterly helpless by the big bad wolves…

Moral of the story, one’s heritage, traditions, and history are not what’s really important, instead follow your feelings to find your true destiny, you can always know for sure if it’s right for for you based on how it makes you feel in the moment. And in the end, following your dreams (i.e., making music) will bring us all together, will turn our fictitious enemies into friends, and, in the end, we will all be singing Kumbaya around a communal camp fire. (If only John Lennon were here today, we could send him and Yoko Ono to go deal with ISIS, then we could all sing in harmony together like they do now in Switzerland, or last week in London.

I would contend that in the real world it is the Sheepdogs among us, not the loafer Hippie-types, that make all our pursuit of dreams possible. And if it were not for those that see the importance of passing our true Judeo-Christian and American Heritage on to the next generation, and in carrying the baton of our forefathers, than we would in fact lose everything, which in many respects we already have… Just a few points I felt worth noting.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 3½
Harry, age 45 (USA)
Comments from young people
Positive—This movie exceeded my expectations by a long shot. In story, character development, and the morals of find your passion, don’t lie, and we Christians have nothing to hide, nothing to lose, nothing to prove.

The only issue I have with this movie is some of the plot points could be (by advanced movie goers) considered cliché or predictable, but decently exciting and well written. A lot of the characters are funny all the time, definitely something to take kids from 4-5 to 13-14 years old to, because I (a 14 year old) found it funny and a good story. This movie is worth the money.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4
Joshua, age 14 (USA)

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