Rock Dog, with the voices of Luke Wilson, Eddie Izzard, JK Simmons, Mae Whitman and Sam Elliott. Directed by Ash Brannon.
WITH good animation, a worthwhile storyline, humour and a heartfelt message, Rock Dog is a perfect family film.
It’s Tibet meets New York or Nashville, as a Tibetan mastiff leaves behind his inherited task of protecting a mountain village of sheep to head to the city to pursue his love of music.
We learn that Snow Mountain used to be a carefree musical place, but music was banned and all instruments locked up after they proved a costly distraction to an attack by wolves.
The village would have been decimated were it for their protector, Khampa (JK Simmons), a Tibetan mastiff with the supernatural ability to manifest the Iron Paw and blast his opponents with energy.
Khampa’s son Bodi (Luke Wilson) is meant to take over this role, but he has been unable to “find the fire” inside that will manifest his ability.
Striving for vigilance, Khampa has created an army of lookalikes intended to keep the wolves at bay.
Bored with his duties, Bodi’s accident during a training session starts a sequence of events that sees a portable radio fall from an airplane. Turning the dial, the young dog is amazed to discover music, and is especially enamoured by the rock grooves of the mega-successful cool cat Angus Scattergood.
To indulge his passion he breaks into the forbidden shed and starts practicing on a traditional draymin, using it like a conventional guitar. He runs afoul of his father, neglects his guard duties and creates a fireworks disaster in the village.
Accepting responsibility, Bodi is prepared to give up his passion for music, but the hilariously named village elder Fleetwood Yak (Sam Elliott) convinces Khampa to give Bodi the choice of pursuing his dream.
He catches a bus to the city to join a band, attracting the attention of the wolves, who operate like an organised crime syndicate.
Scoffed at by fellow musicians in Rock and Roll Park, Bodi is sarcastically encouraged to take lessons with Scattergood, who lives in a luxurious mansion protected by an array of booby traps.
The Scattergood character is a great turn by Eddie Izzard, who has been getting some excellent voice work lately, also featured in Lego Batman.
Of course, he has no interest in tutoring an upcoming musician. Until he hears a melody Bodi is playing while busking outside his gate. He feigns interest in Bodi because he wants to use the tune for his next hit.
Meanwhile the wolves are trying to capture Bodi as their means to take Snow Mountain. With the help of fellow musicians and a wild ride on an old London double decker bus, Bodi heads back to a confrontation with the wolves in his home village.
It all comes to a soaring, spirit-lifting climax as Bodi realises his passion merges with his duties as protector.