Space Dogs

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Space Dogs Movie Poster Image
Russian animated movie teaches kids about two Sputnik dogs.
  • G
  • 2012
  • 88 minutes
Parents recommend

Parents say

age 6+
Based on 6 reviews

Kids say

age 5+
Based on 5 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Kids will learn a bit about the fact that the Soviet Union had a space dog program that trained Moscow strays to be sent into space under the Sputnik space program. Obviously those dogs weren't trained by another dog or evaluated by a psychoanalyst cat, but there really were Russian space dogs named Belka and Strelka, and young children will be interested in them and the entire canine space program after seeing the movie. It's also true that Soviet Premier Khrushchev gave President Kennedy's daughter Caroline a puppy named Pushinka, whose mother was Belka the space dog. There's also a lot of Moscow pride as depicted by the continued close-ups of the Worker and Kolkhoz Woman statue and other recognizable landmarks.

Positive Messages

Space Dogs features several positive messages about friendship, loyalty, family, and the ties that bind children to their parents, even if they've never met them. National pride in the Sputnik space program is evident, especially since this is a Russian film.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Belka and Strelka overcome their initial wariness (and hostility) toward each other to realize they're in similar circumstances and should become allies, not enemies. In space, the two dogs use all of the skills they learned in training to survive an unexpected set of perils. The hardened trainer realizes he's actually smitten with Belka. Both female dogs are quite strong personalities that can hold their own against the male characters.

Violence & Scariness

A few scenes of potential peril -- particularly during the actual space mission, when a fire erupts in the shuttle and the rat Venya appears unconscious. During the training sequence, the cat shrink chases Venya and has one of the mice in his mouth until Kazbek saves it, and a bunch of other dogs are kicked out of the program for not being able to handle or complete various exercises that in some cases leave them injured. Belka and Strelka tussle a few times until they become good friends. Some very young children will be frightened that both Belka and Strelka were separated from their mother/circus family.

Sexy Stuff

Belka and Kazbek fall in love over the course of the training camp, and they briefly lick and nuzzle each other's snouts while in space. It's implied that they're the parents of the puppy that's given to Caroline Kennedy.

Language

Some insults like "filthy beast," "idiot," "stupid," and the like.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Space Dogs is a Russian animated adventure that follows the historical story of the first dogs to return from space alive. The Sputnik tale is for the whole family but does include a few mild insults, some scenes of potential peril, and the sadness of the two main dogs, who are both removed from their loved ones. Families who are sensitive to exposing their children to topics relating to communism or the former Soviet Union should know that this is a Russian film that portrays the Sputnik space program with pride and even provides a short little tour of the famous Worker and Kolkhoz Woman statue that was created for the Soviet Pavilion at the World's Fair.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byClover chick August 2, 2012

A fine movie

I watched this movie at home with my 5 & 9 year old boys. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be for me and they both enjoyed it, especially my... Continue reading
Parent Written byTEAMDeC May 18, 2012

Just right, no fireworks!

We liked the historical context which kept our kids interested. The fact that the two dogs were separated from their families did not have an adverse effect (a... Continue reading
Kid, 9 years old October 25, 2015

Could have been better

Space dogs is a family friendly suitable for nearly all ages but humour that isn't that funny, characters that you can't really flow with but the stor... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byThecoolcomet April 25, 2017

Two thumbs up

I was rather impressed with this film recommended for anyone into animation

What's the story?

Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev famously gave President John F. Kennedy's daughter Caroline a little white puppy named Pushinka, the daughter of Belka, one of the Sputnik space program's most famous dogs. When Pushinka meets the other Kennedy pets, they're skeptical about her origins, so she regales them with the story of how her mother Belka (Anna Bolshova), a circus dog, and Strelka (Elena Yakovleva), a lost dog, are picked up by Moscow's animal control and sent with their rat pal Venya (Yevgeny Mironov) to train in the Soviet Republic's SPACE DOGS program for the Sputnik missions to space. The story follows how Belka and Strelka overcome the odds in the training program to become the top dogs selected for the mission -- and the first two dogs to return alive.

Is it any good?

Space Dogs' animation isn't up to Hollywood's feature standards (this was a wide release overseas), but it's better than the CGI used in many other straight-to-DVD films in the States. Because the English is dubbed over the Russian (as in Japanese anime films), some of the mouth movements are slightly out of sync, but again this isn't something most children will pick up on as they watch. What really sells this movie, particularly for American kids, is that it's such an unknown, unique story.

However embellished the tale of Belka and Strelka may be for the sake of the movie, they really did exist, and there really was a program to collect stray dogs from the streets of Moscow and enter them in the Sputnik dog-training program. While many children learn about Laika, who sadly died shortly after being sent into space, most kids have no idea about the subsequent Sputnik canines, and this film will educate kids (and parents!) about the other side of the space race.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Space Dogs' historical themes. What's real, and what's make believe for the sake of the movie? How could you find out more about space exploration in the 1960s?

  • What makes this dog movie different from others? Does the fact that two dogs named Belka and Strelka really did go up in space make this film more meaningful than other dog-centered movies? What are some of your favorite dog movies?

  • Both Belka and Strelka have trouble getting others to believe them. How did it make them feel when others laughed about their claims? How is this a lesson for how to treat others?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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