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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

Space Dogs


Starring (voice): Chloe Grace, Dorothy Fahn and Richard Epcar
Signature Entertainment
RRP: £8.00
Certificate: U
Available 31 October 2011

Belka and Strelka are an unlikely couple of Soviet heroes. A pair of dogs, they were to become the first living creatures to free themselves of the Earth, enter space and return alive. But where did they come from...?

Space Dogs (2010 - 1 hr, 28 min, 16 sec), originally titled Belka I Strelka. Zvezdnye Sobaki is a Russian CGI animated film, directed by Inna Evlannikova and Svyatoslav Ushakov, from a John Chua story.

OK, before we start. let’s make it plain that the animated film has no basis in fact, apart from the use of the names of the first two dogs to enter space and return safely - not that I was expecting to see a film about the first dog in space ‘Laika’ who died of stress and overheating.

The film opens with the presentation of Strelka’s puppies to President Kennedy. Pushok, sets the scene and starts to tell her mother’s story. I’ll stop being picky soon, but the dog which was actually presented was Pushinka (Pushok was her father), though it’s hard to know from a film with an English vocal track whether this fault lies in the original film or in the translation.

There is always a suspicion about films funded by the Russian state which, like China, spends a small fortune each year to present a particular view of their respective countries. If this was one of the films aims, then the only thing it really proved was that Russian animation is a good five years behind anything Pixar or its contemporaries can produce.

But let’s face it, this is a kid’s film and succeeds in being cute and entertaining for a younger age group without the nuances desperately needed to entertain the parents.

Having crashed her circus rocket ship, Belka crashes into Strelka’s sand pit, which causes another confusion as Strelka’s voice often sounds like a young male's, leading to the confusion as both are supposed to be female. So a Lady and the Tramp rerun wasn’t on the cards, even if the vocals would initially give that impression.

After a few adventures with their anthropomorphised dog, pig and rat friends, they go on the run from both the dog catcher and the local dog thugs. This is but a short respite, until the two are caught and shipped off to Baikonur, to train to be cosmonauts, or in the case of Laika, cooked. To gloss over the unpalatable truth Laika is wiped from history to be replaced by the fictional Venya, who is the first choice of the next launch.

Obviously, everybody ends up in in the capsule when an impact causes a fire, the crisis is overcome and the crew return to Earth. The film's end credits has some nice real footage of the dogs, which should give the kids a kick.

The Blu-ray is crisp, with no obvious problems with the print. The audio is a rather disappointing DD2.0 mix. The disc contains no extras.

It’s not a bad animated film, but it’s also not up there with the best. It’s likely to entertain young children, but be less entertaining for the adults.


Charles Packer

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