NEW YORK. “Arctic Dogs” (PG, AMBI Group) serves up family-friendly fare, scoring high on the cuteness meter despite its lack of originality.
The little ones will love Swifty (voice of Jeremy Renner). He’s a fox who always dreamed of being top dog for the Arctic Blast Delivery Service (ABDS).
When he finally gets a job there, though, it’s not as glamorous as he imagined.
Directed and co-written by Aaron Woodley with writing contributions from Bob Barlen, Cal Brunker, Matthew Lyon and Bryan Thompson, “Arctic Dogs” brings the message “be yourself” to the snowy north.
Swifty and his pals, PB (voice of Alec Baldwin), a lovable polar bear, and Lemmy (voiced by James Franco), a scared-of-heights albatross, live in the quiet hamlet of Taigasville. This remote Arctic community depends on ABDS to deliver all the things they need for daily life.
Because of this, the dogs who pull the delivery sleds, Duke (voice of Michael Madsen), Dakota (voice of Laurie Holden) and Dusty (voice of Donny Falsetti) are the town heroes.
As a youngster, Swifty bemoans the fact that he’s practically invisible to most of the other townsfolk — literally. His parents insist on dressing him in white so he blends in with the snowy landscape. His biggest wish: to be noticed and loved by all like Duke, Dakota and Dusty.
When he grows up and begins working for ABDS, Magda (voice of Angelica Huston) the boss caribou, puts him on the conveyor belt that prepares packages for delivery.
When Swifty promises Jade (voice of Heidi Klum), another fox he’s always had a crush on, to deliver a late package for her, he stumbles into the lair of Otto Von Walrus (voice of John Cleese), who wants nothing more than to rule the world.
His evil plan is to drill into a gas pocket directly beneath Taigasville. Releasing the gas and melting the ice would result in the town’s destruction.
The voice acting in the film far surpasses the shortcomings of the script. Renner brings the right mix of excitement and genuineness to Swifty. Franco, Baldwin, Huston, Klum (voicing two characters) and Cleese help “Arctic Dogs” to rise above its lack of freshness.
Even though the values in the film are suitable for all, the “be true to yourself” message has had better vehicles (“Moana” comes to mind).
The film contains one crass term and a few instances of bathroom humor. The Catholic News Service Classification is A-II —adults and adolescents.