All things considered, there's supposed to be a fundamental difference between TV programs and movies. Due to the former being essentially easier and considerably less expensive to watch when compared to the latter (after the initial cost of a TV and perhaps cable or satellite programing vs. The price of admission, plus popcorn, and taking the kids or paying for a babysitter), many more people watch TV than attend films in the theaters.
Movies are also supposed to be special simply because there's not that many of them and they cost a heck of a lot more money to produce. With less than one hundred and fifty mainstream films, plus another hundred or so smaller, independent, or foreign flicks playing at the local multiplex in any given year, theatrical releases are far outnumbered by TV programs.
At twenty plus episodes per year times hundreds of shows on as many channels, people have much more from which to choose. While they expect to be entertained by what's presented to them (we hope), few probably expect, let alone demand, high quality, artistic offerings. Why else do you think they call it the "boob tube?" (Okay, there's another reason, but that's beyond the point).
Of course there are exceptions to the rule, with some TV shows receiving the high-polished treatment while some movies conversely get bargain basement production efforts. Nonetheless, when we go to the movies, we expect something special and different from what's readily available with the flick of a TV remote.
All of which leads to "Doug's 1st Movie," a big screen adaption of an apparently popular Saturday morning kids cartoon series. I'll admit that I'd never even heard of this show (that airs locally at the busy viewing time of 6 a.m.) until information about the upcoming movie was released. Thus, I can't make any comparative statements about how this less than eighty minute version stacks up against the original episodes from the series.
What I can tell you is that it doesn't have that magic or cinematic feel to warrant the big screen treatment. Playing out like an elongated episode of pretty much any Saturday morning show, there's absolutely no artistic reason this film ever escaped the realm of television. Notice that I modified the word "reason" with the adjective "artistic." Of course there are always financial reasons for doing so.
Although traditional -- and thus expensive -- Disney-like animation has been on a downward financial slide ever since the heyday of "The Lion King," the more crudely drawn and thus less expensive films -- such as the recent "The Rugrats Movie" -- are making a lot of money. That, when tied with video sales and, last but not least, an appearance on the ABC network that just so happens to be owned by Disney that's releasing this film, is all the explanation anyone needs as to why this film got the big screen green light.
I'm purposefully going on about essentially nothing because this mediocre film elicited nothing more than a dulled response from me. It clearly isn't offensive enough -- in an artistic sense -- to warrant a critical beating and yet offers nothing substantial to praise (beyond pacifying the kids that some parents will think is worthy of heaps of praise). The animation is substantially subpar of that found in any "major" Disney animated theatrical release and looks pretty much like what you'd find on any Saturday morning kids show.
The story is episodic in nature and execution, meaning that it feels like nothing more than a continuation of what's already transpired on the TV show (and according to the production notes that's correct), and while it may please its core audience of pre-adolescent fans, there's practically nothing present to entertain, let alone hold any adult's interest (unless you consider the examples of a police car's license plate that reads "Doughnut 1" as high entertainment).
While there's no concrete rule stating that animated or otherwise kid-oriented fare has to please the adults, filmmakers need to remember that the little ones -- unlike sitting at home and turning on the tube by themselves -- don't have easy or independent access to the local multiplex. Since mom, dad, or someone old enough to drive has to make the effort of getting them there, they should at least be rewarded with something they can watch.
The traditional Disney animated films -- as well as the old Warner Brothers Looney Tunes cartoons -- have long known this and always delivered. How else can one explain "Beauty and the Beast -- a kid's film if there ever was one, being nominated for a Best Picture Oscar for the year it was released? Unfortunately, this film isn't even in the same ballpark as that classic and that's simply because it's nothing more than an elongated TV show playing in the movie theater.
While the kids at our screening applauded at the end, they made absolutely no noise and didn't respond at all during the film. Perhaps they sensed the same thing we adults did -- that the film is okay for what it's trying to achieve, but is otherwise rather dull and unimaginative in comparison to what's normally shown at the movies -- and thus clapped simply because they thought that would be the polite thing to do.
In no ways bad to justify a low rating and certainly nothing to remember or recommend to others, the film is simply there, a mediocre presentation that should have stayed where it belonged -- on the small screen. As such, we give "Doug's 1st Movie" -- that will hopefully be his last unless his creators decide to up the creative and entertainment ante -- a 4 out of 10.