The Spool / Movies
Arctic Dogs Review: Turns Your Brain Into Mush
Jeremy Renner moves from failed app to failed kid's movie in this half-hearted CG kid's flick.
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Jeremy Renner moves from failed app to failed kid’s movie in this half-hearted CG kid’s flick.

Swifty (Jeremy Renner), the lead character of Arctic Dogs, is a small arctic fox living in a remote arctic town with big dreams. Specifically, he wants to lead the Arctic Blast Delivery Service’s sled dog team charged with bringing people’s packages. For now, he’ll have to settle for working at the conveyor belt at ABDS charged with organizing packages. Swifty relentlessly pursues his dreams to the point that he compromises his own identity in his fervent quest for fame & glory. Eventually, he learns that a walrus, Doc Walrus (John Cleese), is bent on unleashing toxic gas that would melt the polar ice caps. This becomes his chance for fame and glory that could also morph into a lesson on being yourself.  

What happens next? Well, little of interest, that’s for sure. Even the youngest of kiddos will be turned off by the tediously predictable nature of Arctic Dogs, which comes to the screen with so little energy it’s a wonder that somebody bothered to sync up the dialogue with the characters moving lips. 

The animation, for example, is lazily assembled and looks shockingly cheap for something hitting the big screen in 2019. Something like Hoodwinked! may have looked like a Nintendo 64 cutscene, but at least it was an independently financed production and compensated for its creaky animation with scenes like the Be Prepared musical number. What excuse does a $50 million production like Arctic Dogs, one with no virtues to mitigate its animation shortcomings, have to lean on?

The only amusement to be found in the animation is how much it undercuts attempts at intentional humor. For instance, moments in which Swifty’s supposed to make a wacky facial expression are massively underwhelming in execution. His face is so rigidly animated that his expressions never evoke anything resembling humorous; it’s just the same default facial expressions ever so slightly tweaked. 

Character designs in Arctic Dogs are similarly underwhelming, with the worst of the bunch being the unimaginative designs used for the interchangeable members of the beavers and puffins that keep creeping into the movie. The assorted beavers and puffins are utilized as non-speaking helpers constantly engaging in slapstick comedy as a blatant attempt on the part of Arctic Dogs to replicate the magic of the Minions. How bad does your movie have to be to make you long for the comparatively superior comedy of those Minions?!?

All of that lazy animation is matched in lack of effort by the assorted celebrity actors assembled for an easy paycheck. A woefully miscast Renner fails to give Swifty an endearing spirit; he always comes as irritatingly smarmy, which compounds the unlikeable qualities laced into the character on a screenwriting level. 

Even the youngest of kiddos will be turned off by the tediously predictable nature of Arctic Dogs.

Turning to the supporting players, one remains baffled why Alec Baldwin and James Franco are in this and basically sleepwalking through their performance (well, maybe that’s not so surprising for Franco). Do they need cash that badly? More befuddling is wondering why the likes of Heidi Klum and Michael Madsen are in this cast. Did you really need the star wattage of 2019 Michael Madsen in the cast of your animated kid’s movie? Weren’t there actual voice actors Arctic Dogs could have hired for these roles? Perhaps the likes of Kevin Michael Richardson or Tress MacNeille would have brought too much creativity and fun to a project as catatonic as Arctic Dogs. There’s no placement for those two elements in a movie whose idea of comedy is constantly returning to lazy fart jokes.

Animation is a medium of expression capable of expressing such beauty, such fun, such wonder; none of those concepts even inadvertently wander into the domain of Arctic Dogs. Much like Jeremy Renner’s ill-fated app, Arctic Dogs is occasionally unintentionally amusing for how bad it is, has little reason to exist and can’t be forgotten about quickly enough.

Arctic Dogs Trailer: