Rock Dog (2 stars)

Rock Dog

Poorly scripted animation featuring the voices of Luke Wilson and Eddie Izzard

Based on a graphic novel by Chinese rock singer Zheng Jun, Rock Dog is a weird and not particularly wonderful animation for children. Director Ash Brannon's film has the professional sheen expected of a Pixar graduate (he co-directed Toy Story 2), but the eight writers who worked on the script (including Brannon himself) serve up a real dog's dinner.

Tibetan Mastiff Bodi (voiced by Luke Wilson) is lured away from the community guard-dog role imagined by his father Khampa (JK Simmons) after discovering the joys of rock music, thanks to a radio that drops into their mountain village from a passing plane. The tunes of British pop star Angus Scattergood (Eddie Izzard) inspire Bodi, who sets out for the city to pursue his dream of collaborating with his idol. But the reclusive Angus suffers from writer's block, and plans to use Bodi's gifts for his own selfish ends.

Rock Dog's attempts to provide a commentary on modern musical trends are curiously weak; among the supporting characters, Sam Elliott plays a yak called Fleetwood Yak, while Angus's robot butler is lazily called Ozzy. Only Izzard seems determined to make something of his character. Cool cat Angus seems to be drawing on several British rockers, although his pointed teeth and coat-hanger physique specifically suggest the late David Bowie.

Compared to Sing, which boasted a plethora of well-known pop hits, Rock Dog's soundtrack only features two recognisable songs: Foo Fighters' 'Learn to Fly' accompanies Bodi setting out on his journey, and Radiohead's 'No Surprises' plays when his career hits the skids. The use of the latter, an unashamedly downbeat anthem, in the context of a daft canine's search for pop stardom is the most surprising thing about Rock Dog; but the budget used for such music licensing coups would have been better spent putting the hours in on the script.

General release from Fri 16 Jun.

Rock Dog

  • 2 stars
  • 2017
  • 1h 20min
  • PG
  • Directed by: Ash Brannon
  • Written by: Ash Brannon, Kurt Voelker
  • Cast: Luke Wilson, Eddie Izzard, JK Simmons

Bodi (Wilson) is a guard dog who takes up rock music, inspired by British pop star Angus Scattergood (Izzard). Weird and not very wonderful kids’ animation with weak jokes and few recognisable songs; it has a professional sheen but the script is a dog’s dinner.