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Featured DVD Review: Jim Henson's Dog City: The Movie

June 7th, 2010

Jim Henson's Dog City: The Movie - Buy from Amazon

Jim Henson's Dog City: The Movie. The movie? This is not a movie. This is an episode of the Emmy winning The Jim Henson Hour. It's not even the full episode, as when it was originally broadcast, it contained an introduction that isn't present here. However, that little bit of false advertising aside, is this 40-minute worth checking out?

The film is set in Dog City, which you might recognize from the famous painting of dogs playing poker. (That painting is reportedly the inspiration for this movie.) Rowlf the Dog acts as the storyteller breaking the fourth wall to give us the background information, move the story along, comment on some of the jokes. The story starts when Ace Yu walks into The Dog House, the tavern where Rowlf works. He's the new owner, having inherited the bar from his Uncle, whom he didn't even know. His uncle, Harry, recently passed away after he accidentally stabbed himself and then fell off the roof. At least that's what the police said happened. In reality, he was rubbed out by Bugsy Them, the local mob boss, after Harry refused to pay the protection money. Now that Ace is the new owner, he's in the same situation.

That night he meets down-on-her-luck singer, Colleen, looking through his trash for food. He invites her in for a real meal, but that's when she sees Bugsy has struck and Ace's apartment is on fire. Her quick thinking saves the day and the two feel an instant connection. They have a lot in common: Ace was an orphan, while Colleen's parents were accountants. However, this gives Bugsy an opportunity and he sends his three goons to kidnap her. Now it is up to Ace to rescue her, but using violence goes against his very principles.

I previously reviewed The Song of the Cloud Forest and in that review I mentioned that this show earned six Emmy nominations, half of which went to this episode, including the show's one win. The episode exhibits the blend of adult and kid humor that Jim Henson was famous for. For instance, this story is a humorous take on film noir. (In fact, in the spin-off TV series, Ace Yu became Ace Hart, a private investigator, and you can't get more Film Noir than a P.I.) A lot of the conventions of that genre will be lost on kids. On the other hand, there are not one, but two characters whose names are little more than jokes, there are plenty of site gags, while a lot of the humor is based on dog puns. (For instance, the show takes place in 1930, or 13,510 in dog years.) All of these should connect with kids and might be considered a tad silly by their parents. Fortunately, Rowlf as our onscreen narrator is in on the goofy nature of some of the jokes, which makes them shine, while they could have been groan-worthy had they been treated seriously.

If you are a fan of The Muppets and you haven't seen this show, definitely check it out.

As for the extras on the DVD, there are two slideshows: one with concept art and the other with behind-the-scenes photos. Combined they run just over three minutes, which is disappointingly short.

The Verdict

Jim Henson's Dog City: The Movie is a great show and it deserved its three Emmy nominations and its one win. I can easily and heartily recommend checking out the episode; however, the DVD is pricey on a per minute basis compared to even single-disc TV on DVD releases and there are not enough extras to make up for that fact. I would have loved if the studio had released this movie with the spin-off TV series. Perhaps as part of a Dog City Full Series Megaset with the three seasons and a retrospective. Maybe someday. Till now, this is a solid rental / soft purchase if you are a real fan of Jim Henson's work.

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