Jack the Hero Dog is not a good film. In fact, it’s so cringe-worthingly bad that even my eight year old self would’ve hated it. This vessel doesn’t approach the quality of Disney, in fact, it stays clear of even Disney’s dreadful direct-to-video sequels, too. Based on a popular South African book about a gold prospector and his runt companion written in the same pocket of time as Princess of Mars, we don’t care about Jack the Hero Dog’s struggle in the African wild against vultures, former circus gorillas, and bozos and we definitely don’t care about the film.
I didn’t realize that Donald Sutherland could phone-in one of his generally phoned-in performances, but in Jack the Hero Dog he introduces the film as the sleepy older version of the young and doofy Percy Fitzgerald, himself the author of the book who inspired the film, etc., somehow losing the British accent and the head full of stupid along the way. But this isn’t a movie about Percy, even as Sutherland’s detached narration generally overrules anything going on in the actual film. Jack the Hero Dog is about Jack the Hero Dog, a puppy spared the humiliation of being the odd one out of his litter by becoming Percy’s companion. We don’t watch a movie here, we simply watch scenes play. Jock gets into a race and wins, Percy has to deliver a piano, there’s a love interest that’s neither lovely nor interesting. This is the same kind of fangless exposition that would be sold exclusively at Walmart and feature The Dove Foundation’s “Family Approved” shield.
Jack the Hero Dog looks like a bad CGI test reel for the original Fallout. Everything looks awful; the animation is stock and inexpressive, and it’s obvious from some of the terrible framing that the creators couldn’t afford enough chits on the render farm to give it another go when they set the camera in the wrong position. A chorus of recognizable talent even appears here, desperate for a paycheck. Helen Hunt (Remember her? Mad About You? Yeah!) plays Jock’s mom and the film’s emotional soft spot as she’s murdered by a cat. Spoilers. Bryan Adams (yes, the “Summer of 69” Bryan Adams) plays the adult Jock, Ted Danson is here and, god bless him, Mandy Patinkin saves the credibility of the cast by being the gatekeeper of some of the worst songs I’ve ever heard by lyricist Tim Rice (Remember him? Lion King? Yeah!).
I don’t know why I watched this [They sent it to us, we’ll watch anything. -Ed]. I think I was just asking for the punishment and it delivered with ease. Even your kids will know (because sometimes kids are smart) that this is the sort of movie that plays randomly in a hospital or at 6AM before all the good cartoons start. This is the movie they’d laugh at other kids for when spotted on their shelves. “Haha Jimmy, your mom and dad bought that?” Then Jimmy would cry.
That’s the kind of movie Jock the Hero Dog is. It makes you cry.