[Screen It]


(1999) (voices of Thomas McHugh, Fred Newman) (G)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Minor Minor Moderate *Mild Mild
Mild None Moderate None None
Smoking Tense Family
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Children's Animated: A twelve-year-old tries to balance saving an endangered monster that's emerged from a local, polluted lake with his desire to take a girl to the school dance.
Doug Funnie (voice of Thomas McHugh) and his best friend Skeeter (voice of Fred Newman) are typical, near adolescent kids living in the town of Bluffington that's named after the powerful Bluff family that dominates nearly every aspect of life there.

Searching the banks of the toxically polluted Lucky Duck Lake for a mythical monster, Doug and Skeeter must put up Roger (voice of Chris Phillips), the school tough guy, and his pals who continually mock their "hunt." When the guys discover that the monster is real, however, they set out to help what turns out to be a friendly beast while Roger contacts the local school brains to build a robot to protect him.

Of course all of this is just a side complication to Doug's "real" problem, his crush on Patti Mayonnaise (voice of Connie Shulman) and his desire to take her to their school's Valentines Day dance. With smarmy upperclassman Guy Graham (voice of Guy Hadley) also putting the moves on her, however, Doug has his work cut out for him.

It doesn't help that his efforts to save the monster -- that they've nicknamed Herman Melville -- from Mr. Bluff (voice of Doug Preis) -- the tycoon responsible for polluting the lake who subsequently wants to capture and kill the monster to save face -- is taking up the time he should be spending with Patti.

With the aide of Mayor Tippi Dink (voice of Doris Belack), Doug and Skeeter do what they can to save the monster from Bluff's armed men, all while Doug tries to win back Patti at the same time.

If they're fans of the original Saturday morning TV cartoon they probably will.
For not containing material to warrant a higher rating.
  • The issue of whether animated characters serve as role models for kids is questionable, but here's a breakdown of the major characters.
  • DOUG is a typical twelve-year-old who has a crush on a girl and tries to help a friendly monster.
  • SKEETER plays his best friend who also tries to help the monster.
  • ROGER plays the bad kid who teases/harasses Doug and Skeeter and then wants to build a robot to protect him from the monster.
  • GUY plays the smarmy upperclassman who tries to put the moves on Patti despite knowing that Doug is interested in her.
  • MR. BLUFF plays the local tycoon who's responsible for polluting a lake and wants to kill the monster to cover up his wrongdoings.


    OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
    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.

    Here's a quick look at the content found in this G-rated film. As with many other animated films, some scenes may be a little scary/suspenseful to younger kids, but they're not as intense as those found in many such Disney films. Even so, a child's age, level of maturity and tolerance for such material will have a major bearing on their reaction to that.

    Beyond that, some brief bad attitudes and some imitative phrases, the rest of the film is void of any major objectionable content. As always, however, should you still be concerned about the film's appropriateness for your kids, we suggest that you take a closer look at what's been listed.

  • As Roger arrives in a limo, we briefly see what looks like traditional "in limo" bottles of liquor inside it.
  • We see an imagined scene where a huge monster barfs up Doug and we see the boy covered in some yellow goo (and see others react to the smell).
  • Roger and his pals have a bit of both toward Doug and Skeeter, telling them that if they want to see some pictures of monsters, they should look in their own family albums. They also dress up like the monster to scare Doug and Skeeter. We also see that they've apparently stripped Doug down to his underwear (as we see him trying to fetch his clothes from a tree with a stick).
  • Although he knows that Doug is interested in Patti, Guy makes his move on her and even throws away the dance sign-up sheet that listed Doug's name. He later makes up a news story about the monster's demise.
  • Mr. Bluff has both for polluting the local lake, but also wanting to cover that up, as well as get rid of the monster that is evidence of that pollution. He also tells Doug and Skeeter that he'll do everything in his power to make their lives a nightmare (since they thwarted his efforts).
  • As in many animated films, the following may or may not be scary, unsettling or suspenseful to kids (depending on their age, level of maturity and tolerance for such material). Overall, however, none of it's as suspenseful/scary as similar scenes from standard Disney films.
  • The thought of a "monster" in the lake, the sight of its footprints, and some partial glimpses such as when it rises out of the water behind Skeeter (and as accompanied by slightly suspenseful music) may be unsettling or a bit scary to younger kids, but once they see that the monster doesn't look scary and is actually friendly, they shouldn't have any problems from that point on.
  • Doug and Skeeter find some monster footprints that lead back into Doug's house, and they go inside and tentatively search for it through the darkness with their flashlights (but the same holds true as in the above description).
  • Bluff's men shoot nets around the monster as they catch him and we then see them inject a tranquilizer in him.
  • During a bizarre dream, Doug imagines a large, odd-looking head coming at him.
  • Guns (that shoot nets or laser-like beams): Carried by Bluff's men and the former are used to capture the monster (by shooting nets around him), while the latter are used to shoot and destroy a robot.
  • Phrases: "Goons," "Loser," "Duffus," "Dinky," "Nuts" (crazy), "Lame brain," "Puked," "Nerds" and several incomplete "What the..."
  • We see that Roger and his pals have apparently stripped Doug down to his underwear (as we see him trying to fetch his clothes from a tree with a stick).
  • Another kid throws what looks like a milkshake into Roger's face to stop him from daydreaming.
  • Doug imagines that he's a superhero who's brave enough that he can wear his underwear on top of his regular clothes (and thus look like the old Superman and Batman figures that looked like they were doing the same, at least to a kid's eye).
  • The monster belches (for laughs).
  • None.
  • A moderate amount of dramatic and action-oriented suspense music plays in several scenes.
  • None.
  • None.
  • None.
  • None.
  • None.
  • The film's message that it's important to do the right thing no matter what anyone else thinks.
  • The polluted lake (and whether there are monsters in any other lakes).
  • We see an imagined shot of a huge monster's foot stepping down and squashing a person making fun of Tweeter.
  • A woman serving food in the school cafeteria whacks the monster on the hand for eating food right from the serving line.
  • Believing that he and Skeeter have led them on a prank, a police office leads Doug away by his ear.
  • Bluff's men shoot their laser guns at a robot, mostly destroying it (and thinking it was the monster that they had been ordered to kill).
  • Patti knocks Guy into a lake.

  • Reviewed March 20, 1999 / Posted March 26, 1999

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