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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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.
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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?
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