Sometimes as an animation critic, you're forced to watch animated movies that you really don't want to. In the case of "Arctic Dogs", this was one of them. I remember reading about this film a few years ago back when it had a different distributor and title and remember being scared to see it in the future. A few years went by and I had all but forgotten it until a friend messaged me and told be about this film as he was watching the trailers for "Toy Story 4". Curious beyond belief, I had no idea what he was talking about until I saw the trailer that very same night and the fear of seeing it came rushing back to me. Now that I have finally seen it though, I can confirm that this film is terrible. It's such an appalling mess that I really don't know where to start.
In the Arctic town of Taiwatown, an arctic fox named Swifty (Jeremy Renner) dreams of becoming a Top Dog, which is essentially a sled puller for mail, for the Arctic Blast Delivery Service. He currently works in the mail room for the delivery service, but hopes that one day he will be able to deliver mail to the other animals in the Arctic. Despite this, everyone including his best friend polar bear P.B. (Alec Baldwin), his albatross mailroom co-worker Lemmy (James Franco), and his reindeer boss Magda (Angelica Huston) all doubt him. However, Swifty luck changes when his old childhood friend Jade (Heidi Klum) asks him to deliver a package up north. He glad obliges until accidentally discovering that the recipient of the package is the evil Dr. Walrus (John Cleese) who is planning to build a giant weapon in hopes to destroy the Arctic. Hoping to stop him, Swifty recruits his friends as well as two conspiracy theory otters named Bertha (also Klum) and Sal (Omar Sy) to help save their town and the Arctic from melting.
I guess I should start off by saying I saw this film with only one other person who brought their very young daughter along to see the film. Not even thirty minutes in, they got up and walked out on the movie as the daughter clearly seemed bored out of her mind and the father wanted something better to do with his time. I wished I had walked out as well. Their really is no other way to put it. This film is absolutely terrible. I've seen many bad animated movies that have come out this decade and I can say without hesitation that this is one of the worst I've seen in theaters. I don't even know why or how it ended up in theaters in the first place. It just screams to be released as a direct to DVD film, but yet here we are. Boy, it was so not worth putting this thing in theaters. The story is absolutely unoriginal and lazy. The film this was clearly trying to be like was "Zootopia", right down to the same message and same overall story beats. We have a protagonist with big dreams wanting to get a dream job yet everyone doubts him, but then an antagonist causes a threat to harm their species existence so the protagonist has to stop them with some unlikely help. It's just that same plot line, but nothing has been changed in the slightest to make it interesting. It's just lazy storytelling. The comedy is very weak as well with not one joke landing. One joke involved Swifty talking to a snowman and I didn't understand it one bit. It made no sense. Also, without getting into spoilers, the climax is just awful. The way the villain is defeated is amazingly stupid and makes no sense in logic and it just makes me frustrated to no extent. As far as the animation goes, it's sometimes unfinished. I could see some pixels in this film in pretty good detail and it just made it even more clear that this film should've gone straight to DVD instead. Also, the effects animation in this film is atrocious. The snow and ice in the film look so much like plastic and even the boiling water looked like jello instead. Even at times, some of the characters felt cut out from the background as there were these big fat black lines around them at times. Once I noticed it, I couldn't stop noticing it. It was so apparent how unfinished and sloppy this animation looked. The characters are also amazingly dull and uninteresting. Swifty is such a generic protagonist. He reminded me a lot of Judy Hopps except he lacked the charm and personality Judy had. She also had big dreams for a job, but she was still spunky, clever, and fun to be around. Swifty is just annoying. He's always optimistic and has no real big personality behind him except that he lies from time to time. What a great message for kids! The other characters are also throw aways as well. Jade is the old childhood flame that Swifty wants to date, P.B. is the the reluctant best friend, Lemmy is the stupid co-worker, and Magda is the tough boss with a Russian accent. All of them are just simply unoriginal and unmemorable. The villain is also terrible. Dr. Walrus is so generic with his backstory making no sense, his plans to destroy the Arctic being awful, and to top it off, he even has puffin minions. Essentially, not only do these puffins work for him, but they also act like the Minions from the "Despicable Me" franchise. These characters are just awful. If there's one good thing I could say about this film, it's that at least the story was cohesive and wasn't a mess like other animated movies this year. Though that's not exactly what I'd call high praise.
"Arctic Dogs" really is unbearable with a lazy and unoriginal story, animation that's sometimes unfinished, and unmemorable and boring characters overall. To put lightly, it's a film that shouldn't have been released in theaters. Also, I still do wonder why they changed the title from "Arctic Justice: Thunder Squad" to "Arctic Dogs". My best guess is for marketing, but it's still ridiculous since the title doesn't match since the main characters aren't even dogs. I think the title alone shows the incompetence put into this film and that's honestly enough for me to say that you should all skip this one entirely. It'll leave you feeling cold.