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‘Rock-a-Doodle’ (G)

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
April 03, 1992

"Rock-a-Doodle" is another cartoon by Don Bluth, the maker of "An American Tail," "All Dogs Go to Heaven" and many likable others. It's about a rockabilly-yodeling rooster called Chanticleer who's a combination of Elvis Presley, Foghorn Leghorn and, quite frankly, a guy I went to college with.

If this Irish-made movie doesn't display the high-budget trappings of a Walt Disney picture, it doesn't lack for memorable animal characters or a diverting tale. The young ones, who certainly don't give a sticky-fingered hoot about animation production values, are likely to have a good time with this.

Chanticleer (the voice of Glen Campbell) takes chest-thumping pride in his daily function. He brings up the sun every morning. He's king of the farm. But when he doesn't crow one neglectful day, the sun comes up without him. His barnyard associates can't help noticing their hotdog rooster serves no real purpose. Devastated, Chanticleer banishes himself and heads for the big city.

This cartoon drama is actually a bedtime story being read (in the non-cartoon world) to little Edmond (newcomer Tony Scott Ganger) by his mom. Outside, a rainstorm is threatening to burst the levee around the boy's farm. As the floods rise, he falls asleep and enters the Chanticleer cartoon. The farm animals have a problem. Since Chanticleer left, the sun has stopped rising. There's a nasty presence behind all this, a dastardly (yet gentlemanly) owl called the Grand Duke (Christopher Plummer). To make matters worse, the Grand Duke turns Edmond into a kitten.

"Yuck," says Edmond. "What am I doing? I'm licking myself!"

Feline Edmond believes he can solve all the problems -- in his world and the cartoon one -- by locating Chanticleer. In this "Wizard of Oz"-like story, he takes three animal friends to find the rooster in a pinkish version of the Emerald City. The search party includes smart mouse Peepers (Sandy Duncan), nervous magpie Snipes (Eddie Deezen) and Patou (Disney voice veteran Phil Harris), a droopy dog who hasn't learned to tie his shoes yet.

There are many passing delights, including a thriller scene in which our four heroes are trapped in a trunk in an aqueduct full of rushing water. The claustrophic magpie panics and starts pecking holes in the wood. Chanticleer has fallen into an amusing late-Elvis stage. He wears a rhinestone-encrusted jumpsuit, is protected from his fans by froglike bouncers, spends his time in a luxury helicopter and is controlled by a greedy manager named Pinky. Composer T. J. Kuenster has some funny songs. They're not Ashman and Mencken (the "Little Mermaid" songwriting team), but they're sprightly. The best is probably a Bach-like fugue number, in which the Grand Duke and his owlish goons sing "Never Let Him Crow" around a church organ. But in a movie like this, it ain't over till the rooster sings.

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