Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero
Kiddie Cartoon Recounts “True” Story of Canine War Hero
Ads for Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero bill the film as “The Incredible True Story of America’s Top Underdog.” Yet, the movie itself features this contrary disclaimer, albeit at the end and in small print: “Although based on historical events, all characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons is purely coincidental.”
I suppose that in this age of fake news it was just a matter of time before we’d be wrestling with whether or not a picture passing itself off as factual might actually be phony. What’s weird about this animated adventure is how it goes out of its way during the closing credits to authenticate the tall tale via archival photos of the decorated pooch and the soldier who purportedly adopted him.
The faux World War I memoir, narrated by Margaret Conroy (Helena Bonham Carter), unfolds in New Haven, Conn. in 1917 which is where we find her brother Robert (Logan Lerman) enlisting in the Army out of a sense of patriotic duty. During basic training, the young buck private starts feeding a mangy stray that looks like a mix of Bulldog and Boston Terrier.
When it’s time for the soldiers to ship out, Robert bids his pet adieu, but the industrious canine somehow stows away aboard the vessel headed overseas. When discovered, Stubby is lucky that Colonel Ty (Jim Pharr) makes him the brigade’s mascot and issues him a set of dog tags.
Upon landing in France, the doughboys are immediately dispatched to the Western Front. While stuck in the trenches, Robert and Stubby are befriended by a grizzled French vet (Gerard Depardieu) who shares his survival tips, and some home-cooked cuisine.
Then, when the Germans attack, Stubby exhibits extreme valor, between fighting the enemy and saving wounded soldiers. We only have a blow-by-blow of all of the above because Robert reportedly was a prolific writer whose sister Margaret presumably preserved all of his letters home for posterity.
And now, thanks to director Richard Lanni, the decorated pooch’s battlefield exploits have been belatedly adapted to the big screen. Honestly, it’s hard for this critic to know what to make of this movie.
Is it merely an innocent, inspirational buddy flick or is it an Army recruiting tool targeting innocent tykes? Who knows? Regardless, this supposedly “true story” is the cinematic equivalent of not just fake news, but very fake news.
Wag the dog!
Fair (1 star)
Rated PG for peril, action and mature themes
Running time: 85 minutes
Production Studios: Fun Academy Media Group
Distributor: Fun Academy Motion Pictures
100 Years: One Woman’s Fight for Justice
Bittersweet Biopic Chronicles Native-American Crusader’s Class Action Suit vs. U.S.
“They made us many promises…more than I can remember, but they never kept but one. They promised to take our land…and they took it.” That observation was made by Chief Red Cloud (1822-1909) towards the end of his life, after he’d witnessed the white man break treaty after treaty made with Native American tribes.
President Andrew Jackson was a staunch advocate of Indian removal in favor of European settlers. He famously ignored a U.S. Supreme Court decision recognizing the Cherokee nation’s right to the State of Georgia.
Jackson even had the temerity to challenge Chief Justice John Marshall to try to enforce the ruling, before ordering an Indian mass exodus West on a decimating death march known as the Trail of Tears.
So, it goes without saying that Native Americans have had a woeful record when it comes to having America honor any treaties. That’s what makes the accomplishment of Elouise Cobell (1945-2011) all the more remarkable.
For, while serving as treasurer of the Blackfeet tribe, she uncovered massive mismanagement of billions of dollars that should have been held in trust for Indian people. Following years of frustration, in 1996 she filed the biggest class action suit ever brought against the U.S. government, seeking billions of dollars due 300,000 members from many tribes for the lease of assorted land and mineral rights.
Exhibiting an unwavering determination, Elouise did ultimately prevail after a three-decade battle with the Department of the Interior. That selfless, indefatigable effort is at the heart 100 Years: One Woman’s Fight for Justice.
The eye-opening documentary was directed by Melinda Janko, who skillfully chronicled the landmark legal case in rather riveting fashion. Overall, a very moving tribute to an intrepid crusader who not only spoke truth to power but miraculously emerged victorious.
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 75 minutes
Production Studios: Fire in the Belly Productions / Kavana Entertainment
OPENING THIS WEEK
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
For movies opening April 20, 2018
BIG BUDGET FILMS
Duck Duck Goose (PG for rude humor and mild action) Animated parable about a bachelor goose (Jim Gaffigan) who matures enough to serve as a surrogate father to a couple of ducklings (Lance Lim and Zendaya) he accidentally separates from their flock. Voice cast includes Reggie Watts, Jennifer Grey and Carl Reiner.
I Feel Pretty (PG-13 for sexuality, profanity and partial nudity) Split personality comedy about an insecure Plain Jane (Amy Schumer) who suddenly becomes convinced she’s the prettiest woman on the planet after falling and hitting her head. With Michelle Williams, Emily Ratajkowski, Aidy Bryant, Lauren Hutton and Naomi Campbell.
Super Troopers 2 (R for crude humor, pervasive profanity, coarse sexuality, drug use and graphic nudity) Sequel to the 2001 cult comedy finds the Broken Lizard comedy troupe reprising their roles as inept Vermont state troopers in a madcap adventure revolving around a border war between the U.S. and Canada. Co-starring Jay Chandrasekhar, Paul Soter, Steve Lemme, Erik Stolhanske and Kevin Heffernan, with a cameo appearance by Fred Savage as himself.
Traffik (R for violence, sexuality, drug use, disturbing images and pervasive profanity) Suspense thriller about two couples (Paula Patton and Omar Epps, and Roselyn Sanchez and Laz Alonso) whose getaway weekend at a lair isolated in the mountains is rudely interrupted by the arrival of a violent biker gang. With Luke Goss, Missi Pyle and William Fitchner.
INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS
After Auschwitz (Unrated) Holocaust documentary belatedly recounting the trauma experienced by a half-dozen survivors who had been evacuated to the U.S. and pressured to suffer in silence without ever discussing the horrors they’d witnessed in Hitler’s death camps.
The Devil and Father Amorth (Unrated) The Exorcist‘s William Friedkin directed this chilling documentary chronicling an epic battle between good vs. evil, which finds an intrepid Catholic priest performing his ninth exorcism on a deranged woman possessed by demons. (In English and Italian with subtitles.)
Dolphins (G) Disney nature documentary, narrated by Owen Wilson, about a pod of porpoises’ most rebellious young pup.
Godard Mon Amour (Unrated) Romantic dramedy, set in Paris in ’67, recounting the love which blossomed during the shooting of La Chinoise, between director Jean-Luc Godard (Louis Garrel) and a teen actress (Stacy Martin) young enough to be his daughter. With Berenice Bejo, Gregory Gadebois and Micha Lescot. (In French, English and Italian with subtitles.)
Mercury 13 (Unrated) Dashed dreams documentary profiling the 13 female pilots who passed NASA’s astronaut test with flying colors in 1961 only to ultimately be refused admission to the exclusive boys’ club.
Pass Over (Unrated) Spike Lee and Danya Taymor co-directed this filmed play about a couple of homeless black men (John Michael Hill and Julian Parker) shooting the breeze on a dangerous street corner on the South Side of Chicago. Supporting cast includes Ryan Hallahan and Blake DeLong.