Jim Henson's Dog City: The Movie

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Jim Henson's Dog City: The Movie Movie Poster Image
Jim Henson's film noir spoof is full of doggy gags and guns.
  • NR
  • 2010
  • 40 minutes

Parents say

age 4+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 4+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

The movie is intended to entertain, not educate.

Positive Messages

There are positive messages about non-violence, refusing to negotiate with criminals, and standing up to do what's right, even if it's the more difficult choice. The female dogs are just as brave as the male dogs.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Obviously the criminals are all poor role models, but both Ace and Colleen are courageous, moral, and selfless dogs who make wise decisions in order to save each other and bring down the criminals.

Violence & Scariness

There's a lot of gun violence for a kiddie flick. At one point, every dog at Bubba's bar pulls a gun on Ace, and later Bugsy and his thugs (and girlfriend) pull guns on Ace and Colleen. Shots are fired but no one is killed, although one henchdog is injured several times (comically) and Bugsy is shown falling into the river. Colleen is taken hostage and tied up. Ace is hit in the face several times with a rolled-up newspaper.

Sexy Stuff

Rowlf introduces Belle by saying all the dogs drool over the mere mention of her name. Colleen and Ace flirt with each other, nose kiss, and eventually get married. Colleen sings a torch song in which she flirts with the audience and sits on different dogs' laps.


Mostly mild insults like: "stupid," "dumb," "drool-face," "mangy mutt," "loser," "snobby," and more.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Most of the action takes place in a doggie bar, where dogs have bones/drinks in front of them, and the crime lord Bugsy often smokes a cigar.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this Jim Henson production -- originally a made-for-TV special that aired in 1989 -- is a crime caper modeled after 1930s "film noirs," so there's a lot of fedora-wearing, handgun-wielding dogs that spout anachronisms like "Why I oughtta." There's a good bit of violence (guns shot, dogs taken hostage and hit with rolled-up newspapers), but all of it is cartoonish and exaggerated. Two female dogs are the girlfriends of two male dogs (one is a crime boss' "moll" that makes the male dogs drool), and the couples embrace and nose-kiss. The female dogs are as brave as the male dogs, and there's a good message about nonviolence and standing up to bullies.

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Teen, 15 years old Written byDominicboo1 May 27, 2011

Jim Henson's Non Violence Supporting Masterpiece

As usual Jim Henson has made an entertaining special, but there is some mild violence. However, the main character Ace is very nonviolent much to other characte... Continue reading

What's the story?

Set in a '30s style canine metropolis called DOG CITY, the movie follows German Shepherd Ace Yu (voiced by Kevin Clash) who's just inherited a bar from his long-lost uncle. The bartender Bubba and other regulars inform Ace that all the business owners in town are expected to pay the local bulldog crime lord Bugsy Them (Jim Henson) or pay the consequences. When Bugsy and his henchdogs show up for their kick-back, Ace -- a believer in nonviolence -- informs them that his inheritance is going toward a house for orphans and that he'll neither pay nor fight him over it. After taking a beating, Ace meets and falls for the lovely Colleen (Fran Brill), who is eventually dog-napped by Bugsy. Ace must choose between his beliefs and his girl to bring down Bugsy and his goons.

Is it any good?

Any kid -- or adult -- who's a fan of Henson's puppetry genius will delight in this short little take off on old-Hollywood gangster flicks. Narrating the action with his grown-up-friendly jokes is none other than Rowlf (Henson), since this is, of course, set in a city of all dogs. The voices are, as always, perfectly suited to the setting -- the crime-syndicate boss sounds a bit like Marlon Brando, the anti-hero has a deep, velvety voice, and the moll has that unmistakable high-pitched, nasally voice that gangster molls always have in films. Occasionally you can see the puppet strings, but that's not uncommon in Henson productions, and if anything is just a reminder that unlike the standard CGI fare, these creations required a human to manipulate and voice them at all times.

The only reason this isn't a four-star movie is that many kids just won't be in on the jokes. Unless they've seen Bugsy Malone, many children won't understand the time period, the costumes or the character types that make the 40-minute film so funny and spot-on for adults. There are also some puns and double-entendres that will go over kids' heads -- mostly courtesy of Rowlf or Bugsy (both of whom are voiced by Henson). If you have a Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, Muppet devotee in your family, this is a great way to discover one of Henson's lesser-known (and final) films.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the elements of '30s movies, particularly film noir and gangster flicks, that were spoofed in this movie.

  • How is watching a movie with all puppets different than animated or live-action movies? Discuss how each puppet requires a puppetteer to manipulate it and provide the voice.

  • Jim Henson's legacy in children's entertainment is one of the most powerful in popular culture. What are your favorite Henson creations and why?

Movie details

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