Jock of the Bushveld 3D

What it's about:

A retelling of the classic South African novel of the same name about the friendship between a young man, Percy Fitzpatrick, and his best friend, a dog named Jock, as the two set off on an adventure to find gold, encountering many adversaries on the way. This time, though, the story is told from the point of view of an all-talking Jock.

What we thought:

I can't say for certain if I ever read Jock of the Bushveld but the story, known to be one of South Africa's greatest contributions to world literature, is one of the most well-loved local tales. Even if you've never read the book, the name will almost certianly ring a bell. Now, I may not remember the book and I may not remember the 1992 live-action film that first took a crack at bringing Jock to the big screen, but I know this: if the novel is anywhere near the classic that it is so often touted to be, it must surely have nothing in common with this trainwreck of a film.

A home-grown film with some US financing and some American/Canadian voice talent (Helen Hunt! Ted Danson! Mandy "My-name-is-Inigo-Montoya-you-killed-my-father-prepare-to-die" Patinkin! Donald Sutherland! Bryan Adams!?), Jock offers absolutely nothing in the way of competition to even the worst CG-animations from established powerhouses Dreamworks or Sony, let alone the MacDaddy of them all, Pixar.

It would be nice to throw the dog a bone, so to speak, what with it being an independent film put together by a South African team, presumably without the resources of animation's big guns but, ultimately, this Jock is a bit of a flop. Aside for Jock himself being a fairly cute CGI dog, the film itself falters and fails on every level.

On a purely technical level, the animation is shockingly bad – the jerky, stilted movements of the characters and their downright creepy facial expressions wouldn't stand up to a 1990s PC adventure game, nevermind your average, full-blown 21st century animated film. Worse, those old computer games (I'm looking at you Grim Fandango!) were probably better lit and boasted better art design than Jock's drab visuals and rubbish character designs.

And yet, the 3D effect is actually pretty good. Go figure.

Putting aside the atrocious technical work on the film (though good luck with that), the pathetic, incompetent storytelling is most unforgivable. The characterisation is non-existent, while the ramshackle story is disjointed and fails to engage. The massive plot holes only go unnoticed because it is so very difficult to care about anything that happens in-between. The action scenes fail to thrill, the jokes fail to raise so much as a titter and any attempts at emotional poignancy fail to hit home, spectacularly so.

If only the music soundtrack could somehow save this movie. Alas, no. The sickly, insipidly saccharine swathes of noise do more damage than create a sense of drama or intrigue. There were more than a few nervous chuckles in the cinema as yet another scene, already struggling to hold itself together, was further weakened by the sheer unpleasantness of the soundtrack.  On the other hand, at least the music elicits some response. If only I could say the same about anything else in the film.