ALL DOGS GO TO HEAVEN (1989) is an animated film, now out on
video, that is directed by the usually successful director Don Bluth
(THE PEBBLE AND THE PENGUIN, THUMBELINA, THE LAND BEFORE TIME, AN
AMERICAN TAIL, and THE SECRET OF NIMH). There are two premises to the
film. One, as stated by the Whippet Angel (Melba Moore), is that, "All
dogs go to heaven because, unlike people, dogs are naturally kind."
The other, amazingly enough, is just the opposite, and the film depicts
almost all of the dogs as representing a vast criminal underclass of
society. I found these two notions as incongruous and baffling. The
bigger problem with the movie however is that there is only one
sympathetic character in it, the little human girl Anne-Marie (Judith
Barsi who was great as ducky in THE LAND BEFORE TIME), and the dogs are
As the film starts, two dogs, Charlie (Burt Reynolds) and Itchy
(Dom DeLuise), are crooks "on death row", a.k.a. the dog pound, and
they are in the process of breaking out. Once out, they go back to the
dog Carface (Vic Tayback). Carface decides he wants to break up their
old gang and bumps Charlie off. Charlie manages to get back from
heaven, but when he comes back, he has not learned any lessons and is
up to his old tricks stealing wallets and other nefarious activities.
None of the dogs are characters that the audience cares about.
Burt Reynolds provides one of the most bland readings, and I do mean
reading, of a script in a long time. Charlie is boring with a capital
B, and the voice is his least attractive attribute.
Judith Barsi provides a great voice for Anne-Marie, and the only
reason to view this show about dogs is to see this wonderfully sweet
and innocent human girl, which, of course, makes no sense at all. In
fact, the whole Anne-Marie character is adorable, which leads me to the
most distasteful aspect of the picture. Carface is an old, gross
bulldog who smokes cigars and keeps young Anne-Marie hostage in his
basement. When she escapes, he explains how he "loves her" and must
have her back. Maybe I am being way too sensitive, but I kept seeing
Carface as being created as too close to a pedophile. Oh well, this
was not the main reason I did not like the show. The main reason was
that it is boring and holds no interest whatsoever, other than the
character of the only human lead, Anne-Marie.
The weak script by David Weiss, et. al., has very few memorable
lines, and Charlie gets most of them. When Charlie tries to con
Anne-Marie, he tells her, "What a hopeless cad I've been. Blind to the
needs of society's unloved." His lame attempts at humor include, "Some
of the poorest people I know are as broke as the Ten Commandments."
Finally, Charlie's real self comes out as he tells Itchy, "I'm using
the girl, and when I'm done with her, I'll drop dump her in an
Other than the Anne-Maria character, the only other part with any
merit are the drawings. They are a cornucopia of oversaturated colors.
The songs written by T. J. Kuenster and Charles Strouse are as bland as
bland can be, but the singing by Charlie is even worse. It is so bad
that is hard to call it singing. Do you sing in the shower? You are
probably more melodious.
ALL DOGS GO TO HEAVEN drags on at 1:29. Too bad the editors (John
K. Carr and Lisa Dorney) did not have more mercy on the audience and
chop out most of Charlie's part. In fact, if the producer had just
gotten a whole new set of dogs, it would have been a much more
enjoyable film. The show is rated G, but I wonder if PG would not have
been more appropriate in a show where characters get shot at with a
machine gun and where one goes on a scary dream journey to the deeps of
Hell. At any rate, I would be careful with little kids and these
scenes. I can not recommend the film although Jeffrey (almost 7)
seemed to like it, and I give it a single * for Judith Barsi's
Anne-Marie. I hope the recently released ALL DOGS GO TO HEAVEN 2 is
better since Jeffrey wants to see it.
Copyright © 1996 Steve Rhodes