Man res­cues dog, then other way around

Heart­warm­ing an­i­mated tale was made for pooch-lovers

Winnipeg Free Press - - NEWS - PAT PADUA

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.

KAYA

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.

FUN ACADEMY STU­DIOS

Sgt. Stubby: An Amer­i­can Hero is set in the First World War.

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