'Space Dogs: Adventure to the Moon': Film Review

Courtesy of Epic Pictures Group
A sequel no American asked for, or should have to endure.

The son of canine cosmonauts tries to solve an interplanetary mystery.

The first Earth animal to orbit Earth was Laika, the Russian dog who rode Sputnik 2 in 1957. He died in space, but his successors, Belka and Strelka, survived; decades later, they were the heroes of Space Dogs, a 2010 animated kiddie feature that reportedly grossed under $15,000 when brought to the U.S. from its native Russia. That poor performance isn't stopping Epic Pictures from trying to sell Adventure to the Moon, a desultory sequel starring a new generation of canine cosmonauts. It's hard to imagine what American family would choose this obvious cheapie over the dazzling Kubo and the Two Strings, which coincidentally was produced by a company named for that first dog, Laika. But odds are, an American parent or two will wind up suffering through it on video.

In a move that says nothing hopeful about the state of their careers, Alicia Silverstone and Ashlee Simpson supply the voices of Belka and Strelka, who now have graduated from space missions to doing song-and-dance shows on Earth. Within its first 120 seconds, the film has zipped through reminding us who they are, introduced Belka's son Pushak, and observed a frightening phenomenon: A green tractor beam from the Moon is yanking objects off our planet at random. Pushak's father Kazbek, a brave German Shepherd, plots a lunar mission to see if "the Americans are behind this."

The ensuing plot is too convoluted, and too snore-inducing, to recount here. But more relevant to moviegoers is the shoddiness of the CG animation, which occasionally resembles the state-of-the-art circa 1990. Character designers only seem to have cared about the eponymous dogs, with supporting players like cats, pigs and humans either too ugly or too generic to hold our attention. The screenplay is given to groaners like "I have an irritable bowel ... more like horri-bowel," and the performances are similarly lazy. The only castmember who seems to have any fun is Lombardo Boyar, who as a Texas monkey-astronaut seems to be channeling Will Ferrell's George W. Bush.

Distributor: Epic Pictures Releasing
Production company: KinoAtis
Cast: Alicia Silverstone, Ashlee Simpson, Sam Witwer, Kira Buckland, Phil La Marr, Lombardo Boyar
Director: Mike Disa
Screenwriters: Rolfe Kanefsky, Mike Disa
Producers: Yuliya Matyash, Vadim Sotskov, Sergei Zernov
Executive producers: Shaked Berenson, Patrick Ewald
Production designers: Alexander Khramtsov, Stepan Grudinin
Editor: Vincent Devo
Composer: Ivan Uryupin

Rated G, 75 minutes