The Good: Interesting basic concept
The Bad: Poor special effects, Unmemorable music, Lousy characters, No superlative vocal performances.
The Basics: In a live-action/animated blended film, a young boy is transformed into a cat to journey to the world from a story his mother was reading him when a disaster struck.
One of the nice things about moving to a new area for me has been a brand new library system, which affords me thousands (probably tens of thousands) of movie options I did not have before. While this usually works out incredibly well for me, my wife has been using the same system to get in films that she loved as a child. Today, she subjected me to Rock-A-Doodle, a film that scared her as a little girl and one that, when it was released cinematically in my mid-teen years, my father told me I could not go see because he had read so many negative reviews of it, that he refused to spend money on it.
Well, score one for Dad!
Rock-A-Doodle is just terrible. It is the kind of movie that might have seemed clever at one point, yet is so dated in its execution as to be utterly laughable now. More than that, unless Don Bluth and his team were working on the animation and effects from the 1950s until its 1991 release, there is no excuse for how bad the effects and, more importantly, the script are. People in the 1990s were nowhere near as sexist or stupid as Rock-A-Doodle would have viewers believe and for a “family film,” Rock-A-Doodle has a number of negative and dated messages that make the film unwatchable.
Chanticleer is the rooster on a farm where he is idolized by the other farm animals. Chanticleer sings and dances and the other animals swoon and faun over him; they honestly believe that he makes the sun rise in the morning with his music. One day, the Grand Duke sends a thug to get into a fight with Chanticleer. The fight spills over into the morning and proves to the other animals on the farm that Chanticleer is not all that special. Such is the story being read to Edmond, a boy living on a farm that is flooding during a terrible storm. When his mother goes out to help his father and brothers reinforce the sandbags, Edmond opens the window, starts calling for Chanticleer, and his world abruptly changes.
Edmond is sucked into the world of his story by the Grand Duke, who is furious that the boy would call for Chanticleer. Transformed into a kitty, Edmond meets the farm animals from the story and sets out with them to find Chanticleer. Chanticleer is now performing in the big city where he is a celebrity, being used by the Grand Duke without his knowledge. Distracted by his celebrity and a chick named Goldie, Chanticleer has little incentive to return to the farm, though Edmond needs him to in order to return to his world.
Rock-A-Doodle is a blend of animation and live-action (a la Who Framed Roger Rabbit?) and it is a stunningly poor example of that style of movie. An obvious reworking of The Wizard Of Oz, Rock-A-Doodle - despite using the name Chanticleer – is not clever enough to be a reworking of the related story from The Canterbury Tales. Instead, it is a banal adventure that puts Midwestern farm characters on an adventure to Las Vegas (the big city is a stylized representation of Vegas) and populates the film with “types” as opposed to actual characters.
Chanticleer becomes an Elvis Presley-style performer and his celebrity makes him huge, vain, and a generic archetype of a celebrity entertainer. He is surprisingly lacking in genuine charisma, though, so clearly the writers are hoping the young audience will still be dazzled by the (super cheesy) special effects to not notice that he has no real character. Edmond is a pretty generic little boy who, for no discernable reason, comes to believe that a character in a book that he appears to have never finished, might be able to save him in the real world.
Most offensive on the character front is Goldie. Goldie is one of three female characters in Rock-A-Doodle - the others being Edmond’s mother and the nerdy Peepers – and she is the one granted the most screentime. Goldie is the archetypal whore. The Grand Duke’s people throw Goldie at Chanticleer to distract him from how they are taking advantage of him and to keep him in line. Goldie appears with the sole purpose of using her feminine wiles to keep Chanticleer in line. Her motivation? She wants to be a star. Being otherwise talentless, she uses the endowments she developed (she is drawn as painfully bust for a creature with such a little waist) to get close to Chanticleer and the relationship affords her the celebrity she wanted. More than being talented, Goldie develops “celebrity by association” and the message is painfully clear: women, if you lack ability, you can sleep your way to fulfillment!
Goldie is a dated, obvious stereotype and watching her it is virtually impossible not to find oneself cringing constantly. Her character is worse than the vocal performances, which are more unremarkable than actually bad. Christopher Plummer, who is one of my favorites, gives one of the most bland vocal presentations of his career as the Grand Duke, but it is more memorable than the other celebrities who participated in this cinematic travesty (Glen Campbell, Sandy Duncan, and Charles Nelson Reilly being the only others I recognized).
Ultimately, Rock-A-Doodle is an animated musical with a few scenes of live-action that create a pretense for including a terrible child actor and ridiculous subplot outside the main story in order to get the film up to time (though at only 77 minutes, it still falls short). The music is unmemorable, the messages are reactionary and the effects are just plain bad. Rock-A-Doodle is a children’s film that can easily be skipped.
For other animated films, be sure to visit my reviews of:
We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Tale
Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theaters
For other movie reviews, be sure to visit my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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