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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » All Dogs Go to Heaven (Blu-ray)
All Dogs Go to Heaven (Blu-ray)
MGM // G // March 29, 2011 // Region A
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Neil Lumbard | posted April 19, 2011 | E-mail the Author
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Highly Recommended
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All Dogs Go to Heaven centers around a mischievous but ultimately goodhearted dog named Charlie (Burt Reynolds). The film begins with him escaping from prison along with his best friend, a fellow dog named Itchy (Dom DeLuise). They return to a Casino which is run by a ruthless head-honcho dog named Carface (Vic Tayback), who isn't too happy about Charlie's return. Charlie ends up being murdered by some goons working for Carface. Charlie then arrives at Heaven and seizes an opportunity to sneak out of death by grabbing his life's stopwatch to rewind time. Upon returning to life he hears a voice tell him that he can "never go back", and then he decides to seek revenge on Carface using the help of his close pal Itchy. The funny pair discovers a little girl named Anne-Marie (Judith Barsi) who can somehow speak to animals and they decide to use her as a way to make some money, open up a Casino, and get back at Carface for what he did. Over the course of the film, Anne-Marie and Charlie grow increasingly closer. Anne-Marie is an orphan girl in need of love and a family. Can Charlie help her out and find a way to return to Heaven someday? Those are the biggest questions found in this particular story.

I remember what it was like to be a young kid. Unfortunately, that's the kind of thing that some people learn to forget over the course of their lives. Not everyone fondly reminiscences on those youthful days either. For those individuals who do reminiscence, however, I would expect many of the generations of the 80's or 90's to remember the experiences that were had watching some genuine animated classics by the unique animation master Don Bluth. Bluth directed some of the all time greatest animated features: An American Tail, The Land Before Time, The Secret of Nimh, and (of course) All Dogs Go to Heaven. Upon the initial release of All Dogs Go to Heaven critics were generally negative towards the film and indeed audiences did not seem as receptive to the work as some of Bluth's earlier efforts. The film is widely considered as one of the greater achievements in his career amongst loyal fans and has a strong following that remains passionate about this unique animated project despite those unfairly negative critical stances found early in the films ongoing history.

I have heard the complaints several times. There are many viewers who feel the film is too dark for young children (thematically, as well as through the way the film presents violence, smoking, gambling, etc.), that it features too many unremarkable songs, disappointing animation, and even religious undertones that might alienate some viewers with those elements. The curious thing for myself to contemplate and examine is: "When did a children's film have to become something sanitized?" The story is truly dark for a children's film, and that is something I will not deny. However, the story also focuses primarily on giving a positive message to children about the important power of love and friendship. The 'bad guy' dog characters do exhibit some unlikeable traits throughout the film, as do the flawed 'good guy' dogs featured in the story. Yet the thing that makes the threads weave together into an entertaining and meaningful way are how the film portrays its characters as being more understandably human: everyone has flaws, and no one is perfect. Here is a film that doesn't try to mask that from children. It acknowledges the fact that life isn't always something squeaky clean and works within that foundation of honesty to explore characters that are heading towards redemption.


The film is directed in the same style as most Bluth productions as the stylistic choices are purely his own and are not readily seen in other animated efforts. Excellent storytelling, a focus on the characters, offbeat stylistic choices in animation, and a unique eye for presenting the visuals are normal expectations for one of his films. All Dogs Go to Heaven delivers in those areas. The film is never uninteresting to watch, and it zips along quickly while maintaining a balance that allows for the film to not feel watered down or underdeveloped. The animation is on par with most other Bluth films, and should not disappoint audiences who have appreciated his stylistic preferences. The songs featured in the film may not work as well as I remembered them when I was young. Indeed, to some viewers it could be understandable for that element to overshadow some of the other successes found in the film. The singing itself is less polished than anything ever featured in Disney animated efforts. I'd argue that the songs actually blend nicely with the surprisingly more realistic tone established for the bulk of the film and that it enhances the overall mood founded by the story.

This film was made back in 1989 and it is just as old as I am in years. The story it tells is clearly a timeless one. All Dogs Go to Heaven holds up even better today than it did when I was a child. The thematic nature of the story has even more relevance to me now than it ever did in the past. It was always clear that I enjoyed this film, and now I can understand why with more grace and knowledge. This is a film that has important themes for children to understand: the importance of life, the significance of death, the nobility of friendship, and that despite a sometimes harsh world one can always still find some hope in a friend (even a dog friend).


The Blu-ray:

Video:

All Dogs Go to Heaven is presented in 1080p High Definition with an AVC encoded transfer at a bit-rate of 32 MBPS. The film is presented in the original theatrical exhibition ratio of 1:85:1 widescreen (and not the 1:37:1 negative ratio or the 1:33:1 full frame ratio used for previous DVD editions) on a 25 GB Region A Blu-ray disc. It was a substantial delight to finally be able to see the film in its theatrical aspect ratio as I was never able to see the film in theaters. This presentation is leaps and bounds better than previous DVD editions for that reason alone (as this is the first time the film hasn't been presented in full frame). The image looks exactly as it was intended and doesn't appear cropped or manipulated (which should be helpful information for anyone who would be doubtful of the widescreen presentation). The print itself is clearly dated and it appears as though MGM likely used the same source material as previously employed for prior editions. I appreciated the fact that grain was left intact, though some might be annoyed that this isn't a shiny new restored release. Print damage is occasionally noticeable but this rarely distracted from the experience as it was relatively minor. Colors are noticeably better than they ever looked on DVD but the film's color palette has also never been as striking as some might prefer. The presentation also fluctuates slightly between being sharper and slightly soft. While this isn't a great transfer by any means, I am happy to acknowledge that the film has never looked better.

Audio:

First of all: the audio on this release isn't the most engaging or dynamic mix one might hope for. The relatively good news is that the included 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio track does a decent job of representing how the film probably sounded when it was released in theaters 21 years ago. Nothing sounds particularly enveloping with this track, but the score by Ralph Burns is well represented and the audio is mostly clear and easy to understand. The audio is a noticeable (if slight) improvement over previous editions of the film with the lossless audio upgrade. This release also includes Spanish and French Dolby Surround options. Subtitles are provided for French speakers and the deaf and hard of hearing.

Extras:

Unfortunately, there are no respectable extras to be found anywhere on this release. There isn't even a menu (only pop-up menu options are available). I would hope that future MGM releases of similar titles would at least include a menu screen, as well as informative 'making of' extras, but the only thing provided here is the original theatrical trailer. That's all fans get. At least the release isn't losing any extras (the previous DVD editions were barebones as well).

Final Thoughts:

All Dogs Go to Heaven is one of Don Bluth's most enchanting animated efforts and it should succeed at entertaining audiences of all ages. The Blu-ray release features a significant upgrade over previous DVD editions in PQ/AQ, even though it fails to meet the high standards of Disney animated releases or other catalogue title releases in general. This is a release worth upgrading to for any devoted fans who want to see the film in the proper aspect ratio. Highly Recommended.

Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema, and a student who aspires to make movies. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.

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