It's a fetching story. So sit, stay
By Michael O'Sullivan
Friday, November 5, 2010
The mildly charming animated adaptation of British writer J.R. Ackerley's memoir of pet ownership, "My Dog Tulip" devotes what might seem - even to dog lovers - an inordinate amount of time and attention to excretory and reproductive functions. To some degree, that's par for the course in any movie about dogs, though it's especially true in this slight but warmhearted inter-species love story, set in a time and place before scoop laws, and before dogs were routinely neutered. (Ackerley died in 1967, and the book came out in 1956. One amusing sequence shows Ackerley, voiced by Christopher Plummer, being forced by the angry wife of a greengrocer to clean up Tulip's poop from a London sidewalk, using a bucket and scrub brush.)
Non-dog-lovers may find the film a bit tiresome at times. The animation, by husband-and-wife filmmakers Paul and Sandra Fierlinger, evokes the sort of artsy, literate look of a New Yorker cover come to life. And Tulip herself (called an Alsatian in the film, but more commonly known stateside as a German shepherd) is drawn with delightful attention to the details of canine behavior. She seems very real and has almost more personality than her master.
Plummer's plummy voice-over narration, which sounds like he's merely reading from the book, can get a tad monotonous after a while. And there are probably a few too many shots of Ackerley typing and jotting down the words in a notebook that we're simultaneously hearing him speak.
All the same, it's hard not to feel a certain affection for a tale that is so unapologetic about just that: affection.
The movie doesn't belabor the point. There are only a few words at the end, but "My Dog Tulip" argues the case, as anyone who has ever owned and loved a dog already knows, that love is love, no matter who or what the love object is. And sometimes that means cleaning up someone else's mess.
Contains cartoon nudity, crude language and material related to canine reproduction and elimination, and discussion of puppy euthanasia.