My Dog Tulip Reviews
"My Dog Tulip" is animated in a rough hand drawn style with occasional interludes that are even cruder looking, like they are directly pulled from Ackerley's sketch pad. It is almost as if he is writing the film as we are watching it. The only thing that might trouble potential viewers is the scatalogical details of Tulip's habits which at times definitely feel like too much information.(Also remember that the movie is set in a less civilized time when there were no pooper scooper laws.) Thankfully, this is not played for laughs but used as a way of showing how Tulip communicates with her owner, as she makes her feelings clear. Some of which actually reminded me of the family dog I had when I was growing up. All of which plays well into what the author is saying about the search for the perfect friend which he finds in a dog. But for me, a dog would not be perfect since they still have to be taken care of and looked after and that's not really the basis for any kind of healthy relationship.(Plus, I have killed off plants when I've tried to look after them.) On the other hand, as a friend put it, dogs may ruin your rug but they will not ruin your life, unlike children.
I've had two dogs so far in my lifetime. The first was named Chatom; I was born and then greeted by his natural warmth. He lived a good fourteen years and then passed away. A few years later; the family got Skipper, his name derived from my mother's flamboyant obsession with boating (skipper, for those who don't know, is just another word for captain).
I loved both dogs; as a good owner should. I'll even admit to having some special sort of connection with each of them, and I'll tell you: the bond shared between a man/woman and his/her dog is a peculiar, fascinating, impeccable one. Given that I've had experience with dogs - as house pets and even as friends - it comes to no surprise that quite a bit of the material covered in "My Dog Tulip" - a wonderful adult animation based on the memoirs of author J.R. Ackerley - resonates with me and the rest of the dog-loving world. It's a bittersweet and often times touching story of a boy - and a very old boy at that - and his dog; told with compassion, humor, and a general understanding of human impulses and emotions.
Since the story is indeed told as if it were a memoir; our narrator is Christopher Plummer, playing the role of Ackerley. He wants to tell us about his dog tulip; an animal that he loved for fifteen pleasant, wonderful, and insightful years. In return for his love towards the animal; the animal also loved him. The relationship is told through a short, sweet, and most definitely to-the-point story that only a guy like Ackerley could tell in the many interesting ways that he does.
For starters, I suppose it's unique that he would tackle the subject of owning - and sharing a life with - a dog with a sharp sense of humor and wit; the kind that could indeed be the sole reason behind why "My Dog Tulip" has touched some and alienated others. Along the way from beginning (Tulip's adoption) to end (Tulip's death); there's jokes about bowel movements, a dog's sexual needs, urination, and of course - dog feces. While some of these things might come off as juvenile, they are presented here as all-too-human; the collective and unfiltered thoughts of the narrator, who Plummer gives the kind of animated personality that such a man would be required to have for this story.
What can I say? I was touched, I suppose. By the end, the story comes full circle; and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't at least somewhat moved. Having owned that first dog of mine and been with him until the end, I can certainly relate to the kind of companionship that the two central characters here share. My guess is that most people can. But one common criticism, if there are any logical criticisms at all, would be the fact that "My Dog Tulip" also touches on the sad realization that Ackerley found his one love and one friend in that dog; romantic opportunities were everywhere, but he kept denying them, for he treated Tulip as if she were his lover. Therefore, he does not cheat.
The movie is slow, sentimental, and true. It takes us through the good times and the bad times that a dog owner often experiences when caring for their animal of choice; Tulip is not what most would call a "good dog", in fact, the owner is forced to scold the beast rather harshly in some spots; but the thing about us human beings is that we know the value of a dog's unconditional love. You can stop loving a dog; but they shall always love you no matter what. That is how they are; and the best moments in the film are when Tulip shows great affection for her owner. Such moments were, to say the least, easy for a guy like me to identify with.
While I love dogs to death - and also admire the deeply felt story at the center of the film - I can't say I absolutely loved it. I didn't have many problems with it; but if I have one major complaint, it's that "My Dog Tulip" failed to tug at my emotional heartstrings. Not many films can do that anyways, but since the story is so relatable, I kind of expected to be moved on a deeper level than I was. But then again, an emotional reaction is just that; and I felt something. That's probably more than a mainstream audience will ever feel from the movie; since it is unsuitable for them. The animation isn't of the highest quality - perhaps so that the story can step into the spotlight throughout - and the film never quite begs to be resonant. Yet, for those willing to see it through and admire it, there are indeed things to resonate with. "My Dog Tulip" is a gem of an animation that will probably continue to go unnoticed - since it still lies somewhere in obscurity - but I think it deserves attention and I hope that somehow, someday, and in some way; it shall find an audience that truly loves it for what it is.
An animation movie for adults, to be precise - for mature adults.
The film does not shy away from the honest truth of the situation, it covers every bit of dog ownership in full detail. From the cleaning up of the dog's poop, to her desire to mate, nothing is out of bounds for this film, and that kind of honesty is refreshing. It depicts the natural beauty of that which humans often find taboo or grotesque in a casual matter-of-fact manner. And that is what makes the film work as well as it does. In addition, the unfinished style of the animation mirrors the raw simplicity of the story. It does not surpass 90 minutes and it doesn't have to because the story it is telling is so simple.
Despite the idea of a tale about a man and his dog, told in animated style, the film is not for kids, a sentiment that has been mirrored by droves of other critics. The subject matter is just too forward for kids audiences. Not only that, but the narrative is also very lyrical, describing in detail the every day affairs of Ackerley and his pup. I am sure that these episodes are quite faithful to the memoir, so sure, in fact, that I fear that I needn't seek out the memoir for any further detail. There is often a fuss made when a film changes things to a book, but I fear the opposite here.
The story being told seems much better suited to the memoir form, which means that while it may be interesting, I don't think it lends itself too well to the visual medium, at least not when the adaptation is done in such a bland manner. I really can't complain too much past that minor quibble. It is a well made little film with some really refreshing methods and ideas. It just wasn't something that grabbed me at any point during the film.
Well, I think that's pretty much all in "My Dog Tulip". It's very well made, and I think kids will not be impressed by this because it's an adult situation that most kids will not get. And to me, I like it, I like it more than any animated film that I've seen this year, and to that, it's one of the best films of the year, and I guarantee it!
Before I continue, a bit of a disclaimer: I'm very much a dog person. I currently have two dogs of my own and I'm the occasional guardian of two others, including a very handsome German Shepherd like Tulip. I've loved at least four dogs before the current pack, including one other dog of my own and a childhood puppy that was sent to "live on a farm" while I was off at school one day. I tell you this so you'll understand the point of view from which this review is written. If I were on an awards committee in which "Tulip" was a nominee, I'd have to seriously consider recusing myself. End of disclaimer.
Ackerley (voiced by Christopher Plummer), is almost immediately smitten with Tulip, despite her complete lack of social skills due to spending her entire puppyhood confined to a small backyard. He's fascinated by her unbridled enthusiasm for the world around her (which stands in sharp contrast to his own misanthropy) and becomes a keen observer of her behavior on their many walks.
As Ackerley soon finds out, almost everything a dog does in its waking hours involves bodily functions so these become the primary focus of his observations, and indeed, the primary focus of the movie. Tulip often chooses unacceptable places to "leave her deposits" (this is the pre-poop bag era), causing Ackerley to have uncomfortable run-ins with the town's denizens. He also becomes quite interested in Tulip's urination habits, cataloguing both her various styles and favorite targets. But the bulk of the film covers Ackerley's various attempts to breed Tulip.
Before you go all ASPCA on me about the irresponsibility of backyard breeding, let me remind you that standards have changed since the 1940s. I'm not sure why exactly Ackerley is so dead-set on breeding Tulip, but I think it's something along the lines of allowing her to experience the joy of motherhood. In any event, his various attempts to fix her up with a suitable mate are described in great detail, and occasionally border on doggie pornography. The thing is, no matter what it is that Plummer says, it always sounds quite dignified; it's simply not possible for him to sound coarse with his sophisticated English accent.
If I had my druthers, the film would spend less time on breeding than it does, but like the other segments, this too is done with humor and charm. The illustrations of Ackerley fighting off the attention of the male dogs of every shape and size that Tulip attracts when she's in heat are priceless.
In addition to Plummer, two other celebrity voices are also featured: Isabella Rossellini is the voice of a kindly vet who's the first to be able to successfully examine Tulip, declaring that the dog is perfectly well-behaved and Ackerley is the problem. And the late Lynn Redgrave is a riot as Ackerley's abrasive sister Nancy who moves into his apartment to help care for Tulip and tries to win the dog's allegiance by bribing her with treats.
I loved this movie from beginning to end, save for about 10 seconds when I really hated it (another 40s-era shocker reared its ugly head), but I recovered. Even the draggy bits -- the aforementioned mating scenes -- were rendered enjoyable by Plummer's lively narration and the wonderful hand-drawn animation.
Tulip has little in common with her cartoon canine cousins, such as Scooby-Doo and Astro. Though she's animated, the artists perfectly capture the essence and movements of an actual dog. Nor does she ever speak, prefacing each word with the letter "R" or otherwise. She and some of the other dogs are occasionally pictured as two-legged, clothes-wearing creatures in Ackerley's imagination, but that's the extent of the anthropomorphism.
It's rare that I want to see a movie more than once - I don't actually own a single film on DVD or VHS - but I will likely buy this one. I even ordered Ackerley's book when I got home, but it's currently stuck in that mysterious limbo known as USPS "standard shipping".
Anyone who's ever experienced the unconditional love that comes with owning a dog is going to love this film. As for the rest of you, well, maybe it will show you what it is you're missing.
This is a movie that anyone can enjoy but that is especially affecting for dog lovers such as myself. The film focuses in on aspects of dog life such as pooping inappropriate places and trying to get pregnant. It's a different approach to a somewhat familiar subject, and the connection between the owner (perfectly voiced by Christopher Plummer) and Tulip comes through in unexpected ways. Even more surprising, the obligatory passing of the titular pet is handled in an way that is anything but manipulative. Instead, it's presented as an inevitable fact in life, the literal ending of a friendship that defines a life in funny, subtle ways.