Movies that are based on true stories can sometimes either be really good or really bad. I'm one that likes films that are based on actual events and historical moments, but I feel sometimes they are played to be cute and heartwarming and I can often get bored with those movies. We don't see a lot of animated films with this kind of caliber and I think for good reason because sometimes they can end up like "Sgt. Subby: An American Hero". Before I start I will say that this is a cute film, but unfortunately, it plays more like an educational film to be shown in a classroom and not an animated film released in theaters. That's not exactly a good sign for this film and I feel that it also was trying way too hard to be safe. It really is a shame because the story in the film is quite a fascinating.
With the United States having entered the first World War One, many men have either been drafted or volunteered to fight the war against the Germans. At a military camp in New Haven, one private named Robert Conroy (Logan Lerman) finds that a dog has wandered onto the camp and has grown fond of the soldiers in his division called the Yankees. Conroy and the other soldiers Elmer Olsen (Jordan Beck) and Hans Schroeder (Jim Pharr) have also started to really like the dog as well whom they have named Stubby. After the Yankees division is sent off to Europe, Stubby stows away on a boat and comes to Europe with Conroy and the others. While fighting in France, the duo meets a French soldier named Gaston Baptiste (Gérard Depardieu) and the rest of the story is the trio traveling across Europe to fight the Central Powers and win the war for the allies.
This is really a rather fascinating story and I do think that it's a very good one to tell for a film, but unfortunately, the filmmakers decided to make the film way too safe for audiences and not take any big risks or challenges. Like I said it feels more like a film you would typically play in a history classroom in middle school. The story between Conroy and Stubby is done very well, but unfortunately, it's not a very suspenseful war movie and feels way too tame. It comes off not only as boring but also way too safe. The filmmakers decided to make this movie as kid-friendly as possible and decided not to put any profanity or blood in it which is very unusual for a war film. If the film was aiming for a G rating, then I would understand that. But the film is rated PG and it, unfortunately, comes off feeling way to safe which is made even more unspectacular in an era where Disney films and Pixar movies have been brave enough to put profanity and even some blood into their movies. I also wasn't exactly impressed with the animation as it felt rather unfinished at times. The company who made this film Mirkos Images did a fantastic job animating "Captain Underpants" last year for DreamWorks, but it seems that the energy in the animation is sadly gone in this film. The character models sometimes feel rather plastic like and at times I felt like I was watching a student film more than I was an actual theatrical release. As far as the characters go, I wish I could get invested in them. All of them to me felt way too nice and didn't have an edge or a unique personality that stood out. They all just were a little too happy at times and nothing more. I will say though that the bond Conroy does have with Stubby is genuine and I do feel the filmmakers did a great job at planning that out. Had they also made the war scenes more gruesome and not as safe, then the film might've actually been a lot better.
Honestly, that's really my biggest problem with "Sgt. Subby: An American Hero". It's way too safe. The story was way too tame at times especially in its war scenes, the animation is a little unfinished and a little plastic like, and the characters don't exactly have any strong personalities to them. This film really is a shame because I do think there is a good story in here, but unfortunately, the filmmakers played it way too safely that I simply can't give a full recommendation to this film. It's harmless enough, but for an animated movie that takes place during the first World War it should've been better and taken more chances.