Man rescues dog, then other way around
Heartwarming animated tale was made for pooch-lovers
Bailee just celebrated her 10th birthday. She’s a gentle Shih Tzu that loves children and her friends at the Deer Lodge Centre. Bailee is notorious for pushing all the pillows off the bed and running away when it’s her time for a bath.
Hi, my name is Kaya. I am a two-year-old husky. I love peanut butter. But you can see by my eyes that my owner gave me a container that is empty. DOGS that have been rescued more often than not return the favour, offering their human companions unconditional loyalty. In the case of the pooch at the centre of the film Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero, the titular canine doesn’t just save its owner’s life, but a whole Army regiment.
Set during the First World War, the animated feature (screening now at Polo Park and St. Vital cinemas) is based on the true story of a mutt that wandered off the streets of New Haven, Conn., and into the care of Robert Conroy (voice of Logan Lerman), an enlisted man who was then training with the 102nd Infantry Regiment.
At first, Conroy’s superiors hesitate to take in Stubby, as Conroy calls his new, short-tailed friend.
But after the soldier trains the dog to salute, Stubby becomes an official mascot.
When the regiment ships out to France, Stubby proves to be much more than that, sniffing out wounded soldiers in the field and warning American troops — and French villagers — of an impending mustard-gas attack.
Filmmaker Richard Lanni, who has produced TV documentaries about the Second World War, was preparing a First World War project when he discovered the story of Stubby. For his first animated feature, Lanni and a team of artists have created a main character whose compact, athletic physique and wide, expressive eyes make for an endearing version of man’s best friend.
Unfortunately, most of the human characters are comparatively bland. Gaston, a French soldier voiced by Gerard Depardieu, is something of an exception: a vivid if standard-issue jolly giant. Conroy, for his part, suffers from a particularly flat character design.
Given its pedigree, Sgt. Stubby takes fewer liberties than some fact-based war movies. Bolstered by an irresistible protagonist, the tear-jerking script by Lanni and Mike Stokey makes up for shortcomings in animation. It may not be Isle of Dogs, but this tale of canine courage is just appealing enough that many civilians with a soft spot for a stray will not hesitate to enlist.
Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero is set in the First World War.