This animated feature, executed mainly with 3D CGI rendering, offers a new, feature-length version of the novel The Three Musketeers but, as the title suggests, with dogs playing the leads. Yet the film is only partly based on the narrative DNA of Alexandre Dumas’ original book. The rest derives from the vintage 80s cartoon series Dogtanian, created by a Spanish production company, which told pretty much the same story but with shonkier, though immensely charming, traditional cel animation.
That series was so endearing partly because the characters were pleasingly expressive in design terms, and largely faithful to the book’s iconic original characters. The Snoopy-like Dogtanian (voiced here by Tomás Ayuso), for example, a character design that persists from the series through to this film, is the talking beagle character at the story’s heart, and is recognisably similar in personality to the ingenuous, chivalrous hero in Dumas’ book. And the dog-breed characteristics of the three other Muskehounds map satisfyingly on to the original characters: effete, couplet-rapping Aramis is depicted as a foppish spaniel. Dogtanian’s love interest, Juliette (Karina Piper) is a lithe, golden coloured Afghan, the king a King Charles spaniel, and so on.
This breed/species stereotyping extends throughout the Dogtanian universe with supporting villain Milady being incarnated as a slinky Siamese cat, transformed here into an ace sword fighter in a slinky cat’s catsuit, as it were, just to make her a little more empowered than the simpering, begowned schemer of the 1980s version. And here, Dogtanian’s duplicitous rodent sidekick, Pip, however, is somehow more grating and repellent, maybe because of the voice casting or the fact that he anachronistically moonwalks when excited.
As with so much anthropomorphic animation, nothing explains why some species can walk upright, talk and rule the world while others, particularly horses, are still roughly the same as our real-world horses. The designs for the backgrounds in the current film perhaps lack some of the finesse of the character work, but are serviceable. All in all, there’s something delightfully retro about the whole package, particularly as it sticks doggedly, in every sense, to the raw fundamentals of Dumas’ story.