4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Millionaire Dogs (DVD)
Yes! Another obscure animated dog movie--just like Nine Dog Christmas, but more mature. I love Millionaire Dogs; it's off-beat and even a little bizarre. The villains, two twins named Hannie & Ronnie, are creepily ugly (and awful drivers to boot.) The movie is original but still managed to remind me of plenty of others as it played out. For one thing, there are cityscapes in the scenery that are completely reminiscent of Disney's Oliver & Company.
The movie opens on a limousine that, says the foreboding music, is driven by someone evil. To our surprise a dog emerges from said limo, and then suddenly you realize that this poor terrier mutt is a victim of some rich snobs who think it's acceptable to pull the `drive over the bridge and dump the pup trick,' as Rumbo so accurately stated in the movie Fluke. Not much later, an old woman on a motorcycle rides by with a parrot on the back of the bike; we don't know it yet, but that fun-loving lady and the bird are very important to the story.
A second dog shows up; J.D. is instantly recognized as an agile and streetwise dog who knows how to get around on his own. In my mind he is like some blend of Dodger, Tramp, Charlie Barkin & even a little bit of The Fox & the Hound's Chief (possibly because of his face and the way he moves.) He is, we learn, a Labrador mix. Rescuing the newly abandoned Chuffie, a dog who loves both astronomy and astrology, J.D. finds himself soon in a new home. It's Villa Lilly, it belongs to the elderly woman, and it's a paradise in the middle of a city. From the beginning, original `pop' music songs play sometimes in the background--but rather than wrecking anything or overtaking the movie, they actually serve to enhance the moods.
Miss Lilly's wish is to have her house converted into a home for all lost and abandoned animals, like a Foster's Home for Non-imaginary Friends. The crew that already calls the place home is a tight-knit family of very different animals, each with their own talents, traits, and hidden desires. In them I can somewhat see the patients at the Cloisters in the play The Curious Savage--there's a scene where each of them has a dream, envisioning themselves living the perfect life they feel they should have. They're rescued pets, but believe they're so much more; their loyalty to each other is punctuated by the `Daffy Little Symphony' song (which ends sounding like the friends singing together at the end of Grease) but is put to the test later on when a fortune befalls them.
And this crew is made up of three dogs other than J.D. and Chuffie; Sherman is a Bullmastiff/Boxer-type whose job is guard dog, but he longs to be a trophy-winning Olympic champ. Velvet yearns for fashion-model status; I can't remember seeing another canine character whose persona is a trendy, hip teenager who likes headsets, pop music, & spray to change the color of your fur. Looks-wise I might compare her to Peg of Lady and the Tramp. Then there is Bella, with her flowing red hair that gives an impression of a canine Little Mermaid or Jessica Rabbit. The shape of her eyes recalls, for me, Clarice (Rudolph's girlfriend in the Rankin/Bass stop-motion animated Christmas cartoon; incidentally, there is a certain deer-like quality to the dogs' designs.) Bella is a beauty queen who gave up a life of circus tightrope/highwire performance for love--with a Lab who dumped her for a Basset hound. She and J.D. have both been around; they know the importance of freedom, the pain of rejection. Her story first made me think of Megara from Hercules; the premise of making sacrifice for a love who shows their gratitude by promptly leaving you for someone else.
The second couple in the movie is Sherman/Velvet, a blossoming one that only seems odd because Sherman is such a deal larger than the toy-sized Velvet. It's almost like the idea of Buster fancying Angel from Lady & the Tramp 2.
A pet psychologist is employed by Lilly's greedy, strange-looking, careless niece and nephew. He, oddly enough, is a goose. (He resembles Boris from Balto.) But Dr. Quack is willing to help Ronnie & Hannie keep the dogs out of Lilly's house for two days (so it will legally belong to the twins) by going so far as to try and kill them. He lures each dog into his traps by appealing to the selfish dreams they have each begun to chase--why? Well, Lilly has passed away in her sleep (a sad scene the movie is unafraid to deal with). And her will leaves everything, including a million bucks, to the dogs.
Like Fagin reading to his dog gang in Oliver, Lilly fell asleep on a story she was telling her dogs--but she didn't wake up. There are some paranormal elements to the story; J.D. is alerted to Lilly's passing away by instruments that play themselves, as they had when Lilly was singing a song with them, the pendulum stops & then a dark shadow passes over the house. J.D. is a dog of action & the only one who refuses to fall into any of the pits the others do--despair, avarice, or anything. Every time he leaves them, he ends up returning to help them. But Bella is always fearful of being abandoned again.
When the money goes to the friends' heads, Emmo the parrot ends up a manager to four dogs: a rising supermodel, an autograph-signing entertainer with a new agent, a bodybuilder training in his new gym, and a terrier trying to become the next Laika, & the first space dog on the planet Pluto. J.D. is the only one who sees that this was not Lilly's wish being fulfilled; he knows that they must use their fortune to help others who are as poor as they used to be. Dr. Quack tells the twins to `bring him the head--err, sorry, a photo of the head of J.D.!' because the twins didn't find him hanging around the house reveling in the joys of nouveau-riche-ness. He gets so sick of it, he leaves a letter telling them he's gone--and Bella cries, `Oh J.D...I thought we were going to...' and leaves it at that, causing wonder as to what she had planned to do with him.
Quack's plot leads Velvet to a dark alleyway, certainly not the promised fashion-world, in which she finds herself lost. Sherman is locked up in a factory that seems to make meat out of dogs. Chuffie winds up in a facility for space testing--on animals. Emmo is stuck at the top of a building (he can't fly) and quickly realizes that someone is trying to kill them all. Bella finds herself in chains at a factory that uses any kind of animals to get fur coats. J.D. must use Lilly's motorcycle to rescue everyone (with Quack's help, luckily) in a chase that also brings the ride at the end of Oliver to mind. All J.D. seems to care about immediately is finding Bella--their relationship had formed in a believable way. There was instant attraction, of course, but I loved the way it unfolded. It wasn't quite as abrupt at Q.T./Tank in Nine Dog Christmas.
A monkey, cat, and vulture (interesting trio) end up rescuing Sherman for them. Then, it's all a matter of outwitting the twins to get the house back (so it can be turned into a sanctuary and Sherman can box a kangaroo!) Bella & J.D. work together to create a ghost of Miss Lilly to frighten the twins away--but later on, Lilly's voice calls out to them and thanks them for what they've done. Her spirit lives in the walls of the home.
Overall, Millionaire Dogs is fun, funny, and well-done.