Reviewed by GREG KING
Directors: Paul Sabella and Larry Leker
Stars the voices of: Charlie Sheen, Sheena Easton, Dom De Luis, Ernest Borgnine, Adam Wylie, George Hearn, Bebe Neuwirth, Jim Cummings, Wallace Shawn
Running time: 83 minutes.
Having taken some two years to complete and involving animators and artists from Australia, Thailand, Denmark, France, London and Taiwan, this film is truly something of an ambitious international production. All Dogs Go To Heaven 2, the sequel to Don Bluth’s animated film about a dead dog sent back to earth from heaven to perform a good deed, is the first full length feature from the new MGM animation studios.
There is a more playful quality to this moderately entertaining film which tries to retain the original’s spirit while moving the characters in new directions. Although many of the characters from the original appear in this sequel, All Dogs Go To Heaven 2 is a new adventure for the animated canines, and accordingly director Paul Sabella has assembled a new vocal cast to bring them to life. Only Dom de Luise returns from the original film, reprising his role as Itchy, Charlie’s loyal companion who reluctantly returns to earth to keep a watchful eye on his friend Charlie (voiced by Charlie Sheen, in his first foray into animated features).
Charlie is sent back to earth to find Gabriel’s Horn, the legendary horn that can open the Pearly Gates, which has been stolen by the treacherous bulldog Carface (voiced in appropriately gruff and growling manner by veteran Ernest Borgnine). The horn ends up in the clutches of the vicious, power hungry feline Red (voiced by Broadway veteran George Hearn), who wants the keys to control heaven so that he can banish all dogs, whom he feels have had it too good for too long. Charlie initially relishes the return to earth because he feels that he doesn’t deserve to be in heaven just yet, and sets out to make the most of his brief time in San Francisco.
Temporary distraction is provided by the sultry singing pooch Sasha La Fleur (voiced by Sheena Easton), and Charlie enters into a deal with the devil in order to pursue her. In some ways the relationship between Charlie and Sasha reminds one of the Disney classic Lady And The Tramp, and it is mainly through this friendship that Charlie gains redemption and, ultimately, another chance at life on earth. Both Sasha and Charlie then become involved in trying to reunite a runaway kid (voiced by Adam Wylie, from Picket Fences) with his parents.
The action is quite pacy at times, climaxing in an exciting showdown on Alcatraz, and much of the film’s humour comes from the playful antics of the animals. The plot is punctuated by a couple of catchy tunes written by song writers Barry Mann and Cynthia Weill (who also composed the songs for Bluth’s An American Tail), although Sheen’s singing voice is dubbed throughout.
While the computer enhanced animation is occasionally quite impressive, the central plot itself is weak, clichéd and predictable, offering little that hasn’t been seen before. The colourful background animation that captures the city of San Francisco is fairly static and unsophisticated, considering the high standards of most animated features now emerging from the Disney and Warner studios, and some technical aspects of the film will prove fairly disappointing and bland for older audiences. Sabella, a former executive from Hanna Barbera, was also involved in producing the popular Pink Panther cartoon series, and much of All Dogs Go To Heaven 2 is at times reminiscent of the standard of television animation. Adults may well find All Dogs Go To Heaven 2 a little too uninspiring and unsophisticated for their tastes, but younger children will be captivated by the cute animals, the corny jokes, the pacy action, and the frighteningly evil villain of the piece.