25th Jun2021

‘Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds’ Review

by Matthew Turner

Features the voices of: Tomás Ayuso, Karina Matas Piper, Scott Cleverdon, Stephen Hughes, Elisabeth Gray, Robbie K. Jones, Blair Holmes | Written by Doug Langdale | Directed by Toni García

Beloved 1980s children’s cartoon Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds gets the big screen adaptation treatment in this feature-length animated adventure, which, like the series, sticks closely to the plot of Alexandre Dumas’ literary classic The Three Musketeers. However, while the film definitely offers some nostalgia value, when it comes to the script and the animation, it’s more of a downgrade than an upgrade.

The original 1981 series was a Spanish-Japanese co-production that ran for 26 episodes and was broadcast with an English language dub on BBC Children’s Television in 1985. The new movie is produced by the same Spanish company (BRB International), but the animation is the 3G CGI variety, rather than the traditional hand-drawn cel animation of the TV series.

The plot is essentially an 84 minute distillation of the first 18 episodes of the series. Young Dogtanian (voiced by Tomás Ayuso) arrives in 17th century Paris, hoping to join the King’s Muskehounds (in the series, they were Musketeers in the dialogue and only Muskehounds in the title). Acquiring a duplicitous mouse squire named Pip (Robbie K. Jones), Dogtanian forms an alliance with fabled trio The Three Muskehounds – alpha dog Porthos (Stephen Hughes), food obsessed Athos (also Stephen Hughes) and foppish Aramis (Julio Perillán) – after accidentally challenging them to a duel.

At the same time, Dogtanian falls in love with the Queen’s faithful handmaiden Juliette (Karina Matas Piper) and learns of a plot against the King, cooked up by the scheming Cardinal Richelieu (Stephen Hughes again) and felonious feline Milady de Winter (Elisabeth Gray). A race against time ensues, as Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds attempt to foil the Cardinal’s dastardly plot.

Dumas’ The Three Musketeers is one of the original ripping yarns, so sticking to the plot is definitely one of the movie’s better ideas. Accordingly, there’s plenty of swashbuckling action, with lots of decently staged swordplay, even if Dogtanian’s signature move (flipping someone’s sword away from them) is a bit of a cheat in that department.

Pleasingly, the character designs from the original cartoon have all been faithfully rendered, reflecting the obvious care and attention that went into which character should be which dog in the first place, e.g. King Louis is a King Charles Spaniel and so on. On that note, there is at least one benefit to the new film, in that Milady gets a nice upgrade, gaining some serious swordplay skills and a suitably slinky costume that leads to the amusing visual joke of a cat in a catsuit.

In fairness, if you’re coming to the film for a heavy nostalgia kick, then you’ll get what you came for, not least because the film keeps the iconic theme tune, even going so far as to provide a sing-along version over the end credits.

However, there are plenty of problems too. For one thing, the digital animation is extremely poor quality – think Paw Patrol rather than Pixar – and the film doesn’t help things by including 2D animated sequences (mostly flashbacks and a dream sequence) that are better than the CGI animation, to the point where you’ll wish they’d opted for that style in the film instead.

On top of that, the voicework is frequently annoying, particularly in the case of Pip, who’s an irritating character anyway, while Tomás Ayuso’s enthusiastic work as Dogtanian starts to grate after a while. The jokes are very weird too – the original cartoon would never have stooped to horse fart jokes, for example, and having Pip moonwalk when he’s excited is bizarre on a number of levels.

In general, there’s an odd imbalance to the script, which feels very lazy in places, but puts the work in elsewhere with things like Aramis’ rhyming couplet dialogue. Ultimately, the film is destined to be enjoyed by very young children and people who remember the cartoon fondly enough to have bought the DVD box-set.

**½  2.5/5

Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds is in UK cinemas now.

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