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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Space Dogs: Adventure to the Moon is a sequel to Space Dogs (2012), a Russian animated film based on Belka and Strelka, two real female dogs that were sent to space and returned successfully as part of the Soviet suborbital program in 1960. In this sequel, set soon afterward, entirely fictional events take place during the Cold War when the U.S. and Soviets were engaged in a rivalry for supremacy in space. So though dated, at least in terms of that "war" that ended in 1989, the primary message -- when necessary, opposition forces can work together to solve a problem successfully -- is still relevant. Cartoon action -- falls, crashes, chases, characters captured, explosions, and a missing hero -- plays throughout, but, in this upbeat story, happy endings rule. Fine for kids who understand the difference between actual and imaginary violence.
What's the story?
Three interwoven stories in SPACE DOGS: ADVENTURE TO THE MOON come together when the interspecies heroes find themselves on the moon confronting an enemy that may threaten all of Earth. Strange green beams have been coming from the moon and stealing precious monuments (Big Ben,the Statue of Liberty) as well as smaller artifacts (a VW bus, a watch, a Ferris wheel) from the planet. Russian cosmonaut Kasbek (Sam Witer) is assigned to investigate, and his capsule is launched. He has left behind his devoted wife, Belka (Alicia Silverstone), and her space partner, Strelka (Ashlee Simpson), who, because of the notoriety of their earlier space mission, are now theatrical stars giving musical performances to dwindling audiences. And Pushok, son of Belka and Kasbek, has been sent as a temporary gift to Caroline, the daughter of the American president. When Russia loses contact with Kasbek; when Belka and Strelka's conniving agent disappears; and when the other White House pets get very jealous of Pushok, all of them are launched into outer space, where they meet a surprising and unexpected creature who has been stranded on the moon.
Is it any good?
Uninspired animation and ho-hum music are rescued by funny characters, an interesting story, and kid-friendly suspense. Featured characters (Phil LaMarr as Lenny the rat and Lombardo Boyar as Chip the Texas astronaut, who sounds a lot like George W. Bush) are the most playful and get most of the laughs. Though there's plenty of action for kids who are comfortable with real-versus-pretend violence, Space Dogs: Adventure to the Moon is farcical and never truly scary, and there are no serious consequences. Though part of the plot pits the U.S. against the Soviet Union during the Cold War, recent events make it timely for 21st-century audiences as well. And there's just enough of an introduction to rocket launches and space terminology to give it a small plus for informational content. OK for all except very young viewers.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the action in Space Dogs: Adventure to the Moon. Though there's plenty of it, is it ever scary? How is this kid-friendly cartoon different from video games and other animated films in which the violence is more realistic?
In what ways might watching realistic violence have negative consequences for audiences? How does your family decide what's appropriate and what's not?
This story has some rivalry between the United States and Russia. It's resolved when the two countries come together to solve a bigger problem that affects everyone. Can you see a relationship between this story and other conflicts? Have you ever had such an experience (i.e., sibling rivalry turning into teamwork to right a wrong or help one another)?
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