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Movie review: ‘Rock Dog’ may have a ‘ruff’ going in theaters

Bodi (Luke Wilson) and Angus Scattergood (Eddie Izzard) in “Rock Dog.” (Lionsgate Premiere / TNS)
Bodi (Luke Wilson) and Angus Scattergood (Eddie Izzard) in “Rock Dog.” (Lionsgate Premiere / TNS)
By Rick Bentley Tribune News Service

In real estate, location is the key. With the release of movies, timing is a major factor.

“Rock Dog,” an animated tale of a Tibetan Mastiff, Bodi, (Luke Wilson) who wants to be a rock star, hits all the right notes. But the timing of “Rock Dog” is off just enough that this whimsical tale of determination, a love of music and courage won’t get the attention it deserves.

The film hits theaters in the wake of the massive animated hit “Sing,” another story that mixes animals and music. “Sing” was a far bigger hit than expected and hung around in theaters weeks after the initial run was expected to end. If it had ended a month ago, there would have been more of a cushion.

“Rock Dog” also has a very similar theme to the critter-filled “Zootopia” of following your dreams no matter the odds.

It also doesn’t help that “Rock Dog” isn’t hitting theaters around a major school holiday. Those weeks are gold mines for animated movies.

This timing issue is sad because “Rock Dog” is so much fun whether it be the pure love reluctant guard dog Bodi shows for music or the snarky Angus, played with great rock star panache by Eddie Izzard. The two come together when Bodi decides to go against his father’s wishes and pursue a music career.

Bodi travels to the big city where he looks to find his big break. The innocent pooch doesn’t realize it’s not a simple matter of knocking on the door of a major rock star and asking for lessons. That’s what he does and through a series of events becomes friends with Angus.

An interesting twist is that the villains, a pack of wolves under the charge of Linnux (Lewis Black), aren’t after the rock star but more interested in the Mastiff. He’s the key for the pack to attack the village being guarded by Bodi’s father, Khampa (J.K. Simmons). It’s nice that the character who would have been the victim in other movies ends up doing something very heroic.

Director Ash Brannon (who co-directed “Toy Story 2”) finds a nice blend of music, adventure and comedy that he presents with a couple of different animation styles. The film has a very exotic East-meets-West look to the design of buildings, places and things.

Much of the comedy comes from supporting players including a burned out drummer, Germur (Jorge Garcia). Kenan Thompson also generates laughs with his voice work as chief wolf thug Riff. And, you can never go wrong with having Sam Elliot’s booming voice providing the narration.

And while they are miles away from Minions, the sheep being protected are a slightly ditzy group that causes plenty of chaos.

“Rock Dog,” based on the Chinese graphic novel, “Tibetan Rock Dog” by Zheng Jun, has one thing going for it: The film is a Chinese-American co-production. It has already been released in China, one of the fastest growing moviegoing markets on the planet. Even if the timing is off here, “Rock Dog” will have a world tour that will make it a hit.

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