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Netflix’s animated feature pulls familiar tactics and falls into mutt-movie zone

The central theme of Dog Gone Trouble, a story about a lost dog whose owner has recently died, is home. However, this Netflix animated family film isn’t very noteworthy. Trouble (voiced by Big Sean) starts out living lavishly in a mansion, a big cry from his previous life as a street dog. Mrs Sarah Vanderwhoozie (the usually charming Betty White, who is cruelly squandered here) passes away, and her greedy niece (Marissa Jaret Winokur) and nephew (Joel McHale) hurry in to claim Mrs Vanderwhoozie’s stuff. What’s the catch? If they want her money, they must also look after her diva dog.

Kevin Johnson’s picture has a promising start, with a delightful montage of Trouble and Mrs Vanderwhoozie. You’ll wish your insane, money-hungry relatives had more screen time. Then there’s a touching scene with Trouble pawing at expensive paintings of Mrs Vanderwhoozie, sadly wondering why she’s gone.

Dog Gone Trouble slips into overdone mutt-movie territory once Trouble ends up in the “forest” – for the other dogs, notably the soul-crushed recluse Rousey (Pamela Adlon), this is the street. We essentially get a storey about the genuine meaning of home, which has been handled in greater emotional depth in earlier animated films with dogs (Bolt, from 2008, comes to mind). However, another of the film’s concepts — a no-label civilization, which is briefly discussed when Rousey screams at Trouble after he refers to her as a “outside dog” — is far more interesting and socially significant.

Instead, the movie sticks to the basics, right down to the key girl character, Zoe (Lucy Hale), who shares an outsider connection with Trouble. Her Memoji look does her — and the other humans animated similarly — no favours. She’s a stock-millennial, want the be boring.

It doesn’t get much funnier than a group of dancing squirrels making highly suggestive nut jokes. When the credits roll, Snoop Dogg voices a Doberman named Snoop, who raps a summary of the plot. The fact that the film can be summarised in a silly, simple dog rap suggests that there wasn’t much of a story to begin with. Netflix is currently showing Dog Gone Trouble.

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