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Richard Lanni
Logan Lerman, Helena Bonham Carter, Gérard Depardieu
Writing Credits:
Richard Lanni, Mike Stokey

A stray dog joins his new master on the battlefields of the First World War.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$1,164,403 on 1633 Screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated PG.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English Dolby 5.1
English Dolby 2.0
English Audio Description
Spanish Dolby 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 84 min.
Price: $24.99
Release Date: 12/11/2018

• “The Making of a Hero” Featurette
• “Real to Reel” Featurette
• “Animating History” Featurette
• Historical Image Gallery


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Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero [Blu-Ray] (2018)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 30, 2018)

Because 2018 marks the 100-year anniversary of the conclusion of World War I, a few projects related to that conflict hit movie screens. Among these we find Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero, an animated adventure.

US Army “doughboy” Robert Conroy (voiced by Logan Lerman) trains for combat on the grounds of Yale University. Into this setting steps a small dog that Conroy adopts and names “Stubby”.

When Conroy heads to France to fight, he takes Stubby with him. There the dog becomes an active participant in battle and shows his valor.

Long-time readers of this site will know my intense affection for dogs, so a story with a pooch at the core seems likely to connect with me. Sure, Hero clearly aims for a youthful audience, but even so, my love of canines means I should embrace it.

And at times I do, as the natural charm Stubby brings keeps me afloat. Going in, I thought we’d get a situation in which Stubby talked, but the film opts for a more realistic approach.

To a degree, that is. While Hero doesn’t overly anthropomorphize Stubby, it does make him more expressive and “human” than a real dog.

Still, I’m fine with that, as these techniques allow the movie to better tell its tale. Hero doesn’t pretend to provide a documentary, so I expect the canine lead to show a more cartoony feel,

Outside of the lead character’s charm, unfortunately, Hero lacks much to engage the viewer. Based on a true story, the movie comes with real potential, but the format doesn’t suit it.

That’s because Hero seems too light to convey the danger of combat. As mentioned, the film doesn’t make Stubby human-like, but he and the rest of the characters never feel “real”, and that turns into an issue given the nature of the subject matter.

Hero comes with plenty of scenes that involve peril, but we never feel the violence or risk – again, due to the nature of the drawings. These keep us at a distance and don’t allow us to embrace the situations.

In addition, Hero clearly suffered from a restricted budget, so the animation fell short of modern expectations. For instance, a scene of soldiers as they march in formation feels less like the result of military discipline and more the result of cheap filmmaking.

The flawed nature of the animation adds to the viewers inability to engage in the characters or story. The art looks so artificial and stiff that it keeps the viewer at arm’s length.

None of these factors make Hero a bad movie, but they do mean it fails to do much with its material. Hero tells a compelling story in a mediocre manner.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus C-

Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though not one of the best-looking animated transfers I’ve seen, the image usually seemed solid.

Sharpness was the only minor weak link. While the majority of the picture seemed concise and accurate, some wide shots displayed a smidgen of softness.

The picture never became especially ill-defined, but it just looked vaguely off on occasion. Still, those instances were modest.

I noticed no issues with jagged edges or moiré effects, and the movie didn’t demonstrate any edge haloes. Print flaws remained absent, so this was the kind of fresh, clean image one would expect from a modern animated flick.

With its period setting, the flick boasted a somewhat restricted palette. Actually, Hero opted for an emphasis on teal and amber, though not to a ridiculous degree. The hues seemed well-rendered.

Blacks were deep and dense, and shadows looked clear and well-displayed. Only the slight softness kept this one from “A”-level consideration.

One notable issue arose from the film’s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack: it’s a Blu-ray with a Dolby Digital soundtrack. No 2018 Blu-ray should come with lossy audio, so the disc lost points right off the bat.

With a combat setting, the soundscape opened up well at times, though perhaps not as often as one might anticipate. A lot of the movie went with quieter scenes, so the action kicked in only occasionally.

When it did, though, the soundfield worked nicely. Various battle elements cropped up in logical locations and moved around the room in a natural manner.

Audio quality seemed fine, with speech that appeared natural and concise. Music was fairly rich and full as well.

Effects showed good reproduction, with accurate elements and deep low-end. This was a generally positive track, but the lack of lossless audio remained a problem.

Three featurettes appear, and we start with The Making of a Hero. It runs 14 minutes, 32 seconds and offers info from writer/director Richard Lanni, head of story Eric Bergeron, set designer Thomas Lepyne, storyboard editor Celine Kelepikis, animation directors Marc-Andre Baron and Philippe Zerounian, composer Patrick Doyle, modeling artist Anne-Sophie Baeza, layout artist Kelly Ginet, actor/2D sequence director Jordan Beck, rigging supervisor Julien Bagory, foley artist Alistair Watson, groom supervisor Luis Cadavid, and actors Logan Lerman and Helena Bonham Carter.

“Hero” examines the film’s art and animation, visual design, cast and performances, audio and music. “Hero” offers a better than average show and it gives us a pretty good look at various domains.

Animating History fills two minutes, 26 seconds with an image montage. It mixes concept art with rough animation to create a decent array of visuals, though it’d work better if it came with narration.

Finally, Real to Reel goes for five minutes, 21 seconds and features Lanni, Beck, Lerman, Bergeron, Carter, Doyle and assistant art director Yann Boyer. They tell us about the true story behind Hero. This ends up as a pretty superficial view of the subject matter.

The disc ends with a Historical Image Gallery. It presents a two-minute, 34-second montage of photos and film footage accompanied by narration. A very “kid-friendly” overview of WWI, it seems forgettable.

Taken from an inspirational true story, Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero comes with the potential to create an engaging film. However, it lacks consistency and becomes an erratic take on its subject matter. The Blu-ray brings generally strong picture with acceptable audio and a smattering of supplements. Though not a poor movie, Hero never quite connects.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 2
0 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.

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