It’s a little faux-ingenuous to blast Doogal for taking a British picture called The Magic Roundabout and replacing its soundtrack with a thoroughly Americanized one, since the popular Brit TV show on which this film is based was a French opus that was bought up by the BBC and dubbed into English. However, it’s not hard to realize that this is one hardcore case of dumbing down — with a vengeance.
Sure, American audiences mightn’t know that a roundabout is a merry-go-round, but we’re also apparently so intellectually stunted that the name “Dougal” has to be spelled out phonetically for us as “Doogal.”
At the same time, the original version, released last year in the U.K., found some little foothold for the adult viewer by voice casting Bill Nighy as Dylan, a rabbit who behaves and sings like a burnt-out rock star. The idea capitalized on Nighy’s performance as Billy Mack, the burnt-out rock star in Love Actually; thus, having him sing the Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” or play at playing the guitar on the Electric Light Orchestra’s “Mr. Blue Sky” makes sense. So, of course, the American version dumps Nighy’s voice and gives us — as Clapton is my witness — Jimmy Fallon.
This isn’t dumbing-down. This is a full-scale lobotomy.
It would be interesting to compare the original U.K. version with this fiasco, but not enough so to invest a lot of time in the undertaking. The Magic Roundabout is almost certainly better than its U.S. counterpart — it’d be hard not to be. Yet it’s pretty obvious that the former still can’t be much of a movie.
Yes, it would be interesting to know if pop star Robbie Williams made a less-insipid Dougal than child actor Daniel Tay (Elf) made of Doogal, but the character itself probably remains insufferably dull and unappealing. Would the Brit film offer us a moose character so plagued with terminal flatulence that his every move is accompanied by a gaseous emission? (The U.S. version has an exceedingly high flatulence quotient; the exceedingly interested may find out if the DVD offers both versions). But I still doubt that this is a case of making a sow’s ear out of a silk purse; it strikes me as more akin to making a ferret’s backside out of a sow’s ear.
The story — the villainous Zeebad (Jon Stewart) is trying to bring eternal winter to the world by freezing the sun — is not especially engaging, nor terribly original (see the Soviet-Finnish film The Day the Earth Froze, or even the “Queen Anne’s Rain” Goon Show episode in which the heroes fly to the sun in a wooden rocket and put it out with a bucket of water). The theme, which has to be shoehorned into the story, is a pretty trite friendship lesson. The animation is flat. But worst of all, the characters are simply not very appealing — either as personalities, or as physical entities.
All in all, Doogal adds up to very little, though preschoolers might go for it, assuming they aren’t very demanding.
— reviewed by Ken Hanke