Saturday, September 4, 2010

Movie with Abe: My Dog Tulip

My Dog Tulip
Directed by Paul & Sandra Fierlinger
Released September 1, 2010

Animation is a vehicle through which stories can be told in a manner uninhibited by traditional limitations on what can be filmed and shown in reality. There’s an intriguing contradiction that comes from effective animation where a tale can be so enhanced by the art yet so simplistic in appearance due to subtle colors and uncomplicated drawings. That’s exactly the feeling present in “My Dog Tulip,” a fairly straightforward story about a man and his dog, two best friends who spent the best years of their lives together. It’s a lonely tale that’s made meaningful by the deep friendship between man and dog.

For those who aren’t dog lovers, “My Dog Tulip” may not resonate quite as strongly. Yet there’s something universally relatable about the film that wasn’t present in something like the inexplicably over-praised “Wendy and Lucy.” What’s most effective here is the way that protagonist J.R. Ackerley, who speaks nearly all of the lines in the film, cares for his dog and vicariously lives his otherwise unexciting life by interpreting her thoughts and desires. Little mention is made of Ackerley’s life apart from Tulip, and Tulip’s existence prior to being adopted by Ackerley is summed up neatly in the film’s opening minutes and forgotten about for the rest of its run time.

The animation in “My Dog Tulip” is energetic and creative, frequently indulging Ackerley’s musings on what Tulip might be thinking with entertaining images of a half-dog, half-woman version of Tulip prancing around and thinking out loud. Ackerley, as the narrator, talks throughout the entire film, and sometimes his mouth moves almost without being seen, because he continues to narrate even when he’s part of the very scene about which he’s already moved on to recapping and interpreting. Someone made a brilliant choice in selecting Christopher Plummer – an eighty-year-old actor who only last year appeared in no less than four major films “Up,” “9,” “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus,” and “The Last Station” – as the voice of Ackerley. The way he regales the audience with tales of his romance with Tulip is utterly enchanting and hypnotic.

Unfortunately, the film’s story-related content isn’t nearly as engaging. The dynamic is understandable and endearing, but the actual events are hardly interesting. The film drags for a while as Ackerley tries to find a perfect mate for Tulip and comes up against numerous obstacles in his search. The film has occasional moments of brilliance that evoke a stronger sense of passion and excitement than the film does as a whole. For those looking to reminiscence about the bond between dog and man, this may be just the right film, and for others it may not be quite as enticing.


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