4 out of 10


A Weak Tribute Further Trashed By The Yankies

"The American Way Of Life is the only true culture. All else in the world is worthless."

... This is the basic premise of much of Hollywood, and an approach for which the Weinstein Brothers have been well rewarded with a box office return of barely $7million, little more than the cost of printing the posters, for "Doogal", a British-French story. Like "Thunderbirds" before it, "The Magic Roundabout" has been adjusted by Philistines of Southern California to fit the American market with all the care of doing brain surgery with a chainsaw, a set of 6-inch bolt cutters and an army surplus flame-thrower.

Not a Brit baby-boomer can deny fond memories of "The Magic Roundabout", a show that resulted from the genius of a struggling actor. Importing this unknown and little liked stop-motion animation series from France, Eric Thompson ignored the existing sound and wove an entirely new story of his own for each episode. Despite being ostensibly a children's show, Eric created a central character of Doogal who had a wit and dry humour that made the show not just a hit with children and adults alike, but a TV legend. Shown first in 1965, it continued for decades to be shown at 5.40pm to mark the end of children's programmes and just before the main Britsh TV news at about 6pm - just in time for the even current affairs-junkie Brits to see after commuting home from the office or factory. Even now, terms like "Magic Roundabout" to describe a lousy piece of road planning and a jokey use of the catch phrase "Time for bed" remain in common use today.

40 years later, British animator Dave Borthwick has attempted to breathe CGI life into the legend ...but sadly, instead, has merely proven his own company is amongst the walking dead, unable to compete with Pixar and Aardman. The quality of movement and form of the characters is clearly trailing edge - about a decade behind the quality of his competitors. Backed by a story that is no more than a string together of stale cliches. The British version, "Magic Roundabout" must have seemed ripe for disaster, but some clever dialogue and a great cast still served to rescue it on its home turf as queues of the ever nostalgic British baby-boomers lined up to see it.

Extending a 5-minute cartoon to a full length story would be a challenge for any writer, but here it is little more than an open plagiarism of "Lord of the Rings." Indeed, one can always spot when writers are short of ideas when they grab at the last resort of protecting their happy world from inevitable destruction. Here, accidentally releasing Zeebad, a psychotic wizard from the Magic Roundabout where he is imprisoned, Doogal bands together with his friends, a singing cow (Whoopi Goldberg) , a hippy rabbit (Jimmy Fallon), a laconic snail (William H Macy) and a train (Chevy Chase) to recover the three diamonds that can stop this evil nutcase from plunging the earth into an everlasting Ice Age. After a stale start, the story goes nowhere as it also borrows openly from flicks like "Tomb Raider," "Home on the Range" and "Ice Age" with the writers having clearly no idea where to send the story right up until an extremely contrived ending. Why other studios have not sued can only be because they know there was no box office return from which to be paid out.

In charge of the US release, Weinstein, however, have shown a clear inability to act with the maturity of their targe audience of 5 year olds. Director Butch Hartman has carefully deleted almost all that shone in this faulted movie. In personally rewriting it and dubbing in all but three of the fine voices that gave it a glow with the British audiences, he has ensured that most of the charm has gone. Firstly, the dry wit that made it legend has been replaced with trash pop culture reference and cheap humour that no roster of top stars could make work. Indeed, "The Making of Doogal" not once mentioned Eric Thompson, without whom the original series would have stayed unsold celluloid on the shelves in a back street of Paris. As Kevin Smith put it, they "threw 99 things at a wall and saw what stuck" ...and it's not hard to guess what always sticks to a wall and, yes, it starts with the letter "S"! Secondly, Doogal, is now played by Daniel Kay, a whinny American kid with a voice like nails dragged down a chalkboard. Laughably failing to learn anything from nearly causing the end of the world, this, now, graceless hero is almost as annoying as the modern day trite racist tripe of a villain having a sidekick who is a stupid Englishman, in this case, Sam, a toy soldier, played by Bill Hader, an American trying to do a stupid Terry Thomas accent - what a tribute to the country who made it what it was! Most embarrassingly of all is the fact that the voices are laughably out of synchronization with the animation and the central character. Insanely, even the only character that has no speaking part, the moose, has lines written for him by Hartman to be performed by Kevin Smith who frankly should have stayed true to his usual celluloid alter-ego of Silent Bob.

There can be no denying that some parts are fun, albeit poor version of scenes from other movies. Brian the Snail's strole through the booby-trapped lobby of the Aztec temple is a wheeze and the clash of the wizards, Zeebad and Zebedee (Ian McKellen), is magnificent and some of the old magic shines through despite all the callous disregard it receives. In "The Making of Doogal," Chevy Chase inadvertantly puts his finger of all that is wrong with the American version, commenting "It's for little kids" - No it wasn't! It was supposed to be for the Middle Aged, nostalgic for their childhood ...and how pray did he expect to win over 4-year olds with a screenplay filled with out-to-date references to the films of yesteryear? When 4-year olds are demanding to know why they are being forced to watch it, however, it is clear that Weinstein has achieved cinematic history, churning out a flick not suitable for ANY audience.

"Time to put this to bed" said Zebedee

Film Critic:Robert L Thompsett