“Doogal” is the laziest, most disheartening kind of animated children’s film: one that seems interested in entertaining kids only on the most fundamental level (through colorful talking animals and flatulence jokes) while frantically cramming in as many pop culture references as possible to preoccupy their parents.
With its smugly self-referential manner, distractingly disproportionate characters and celebrity vocal cast that deserves better, “Doogal” could very easily be mistaken with “Hoodwinked,” the Little Red Riding Hood rip-off which also came from the Weinstein Co. this year. (There’s even a cutesy little dig at Disney, from which Miramax founders Harvey and Bob Weinstein splashily defected in 2005. Truly, at this point, who cares anymore?)
The movie is based on a British cartoon called “The Magic Roundabout,” which itself is based on French animation about a little girl (Kylie Minogue), her dog (Daniel Tay) and their buddies — Ermintrude the cow (Whoopi Goldberg), Brian the snail (William H. Macy) and Dylan the rabbit (Jimmy Fallon) — living in an idyllic hamlet that appears to be devoid of adults.
There’s a good wizard named Zebadee (Ian McKellen) and an evil wizard named Zeebad (Jon Stewart), who wants to freeze the world with the help of three magical diamonds. Both wizards look like Jack-in-the-Boxes that have bounced maniacally to freedom. Not sure what kind of dog Doogal is, but he vaguely resembles Felicity Huffman in “Transamerica.”
Complicated enough, right? But wait. The minor army of directors and screenwriters responsible for “Doogal” messes things up further with a mind-boggling array of entertainment in-jokes. Chevy Chase, who plays a talking train, introduces himself with, “I’m the train, and you’re not.” Fallon’s bunny awakens from a nap with, “What’s up, Doc?” In one scene, the characters barely even have conversations with each other, they’re so busy firing off references to everything from “The Shining,” “The Matrix” and “The Karate Kid” to John Woo, the Wu Tang Clan and MC Hammer.
This is a movie that is trying so hard to be hip, it forces Stewart, as the villainous sorcerer, to rhapsodize about how he’ll buy a blue Hummer once he takes over the world, which he punctuates with an awkward cry of “Boo-yah!”
It’s telling that the biggest laughs from the kiddie crowd at a recent matinee — the movie wasn’t shown to critics before opening day, shockingly — were prompted by a gassy moose voiced by filmmaker Kevin Smith, who’s perhaps best known for his character of Silent Bob. “Doogal” isn’t silent, but it sure is deadly.