"Rock-A-Doodle," a new animated feature from the Sullivan Bluth Studios, mixes elements of "Chanticleer," "The Wizard of Oz," backstage musicals and old Elvis movies into a muddled, brightly colored children's entertainment that is considerably less than the sum of its parts.
It's not infuriatingly bad, the way the product-driven cartoons of the early '80s were, but the dutiful adult who decides to watch "Rock-A-Doodle" (citywide) with his kids is signing up for a long, effortful afternoon.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday April 7, 1992 Home Edition Calendar Part F Page 2 Column 4 Television Desk 1 inches; 16 words Type of Material: Correction
Misspelling--Toby Scott Granger's name was misspelled in a review of "Rock-A-Doodle" in Friday's Calendar.
For a starting point, David Weiss' confusing screenplay uses a few fragments of "Chanticleer," Edmond Rostand's allegorical play about a rooster who believes his crowing makes the sun rise, but the story's powerful message about the importance of self-knowledge is discarded. Weiss sets the action in the American Midwest, but incongruously retains the French names of the characters.
The film opens with a series of shifts between live action and animation as a young boy named Edmond (Tony Scott Ganger) reads the story of the defeat of Chanticleer (voice of Glen Campbell) by the henchman of the Grand Duke (Christopher Plummer), an evil owl. For some reason, Edmond decides only Chanticleer can save his family's farm from the rising floodwaters and resolves to find him. The Grand Duke learns of his plan, and turns Edmond into an animated kitten in an effort to stop him. Undaunted, Edmond enlists the aid of Patou, the farm dog/narrator (Phil Harris); Peepers, the mouse (Sandy Duncan) and Snipes, the magpie (Eddie Deezen), and hunts for the missing rooster in the nearby city.
But in hours? Days? Weeks? Since his defeat, Chanticleer has been transformed into The King, an Elvis-esque rock star. Manipulated by his unscrupulous manager Pinky (Sorrell Booke) and seduced by the ambitious pheasant Goldie (Ellen Greene), Chanticleer doesn't realize his old friends still need him.
It would be easier to forgive the incongruities and holes in the ensuing plot if "Rock-A-Doodle" moved along smoothly, but the filmmakers strain to make things fun. As a kitten, Edmond looks aggressively and self-consciously cute; the supposedly comic sequences involving the Grand Duke's inept nephew, Hunch (Charles Nelson Reilly), zip past at an overly frenetic pace.
Among the voice actors, Duncan gets some comic mileage out of an exaggerated lisp, but Greene can't seem to decide if the Pheasant is supposed to sound like Marilyn Monroe or Judy Holliday. Campbell's elaborate rock production numbers, which should provide the film's highlights, merely bring the faltering story line to a halt.
Bluth obviously has a talented crew of artists, and it's regrettable that their skills were wasted on such a weak story and fussy designs. However, the special effects fail to match the level of the character animation: The Grand Duke's magic breath sprays twinkling stars and crescent moons that look like the glitter sold by the scoop in card shops. The matte lines are clearly visible in the final live-action/animation scenes, and a weird glow suffuses the entire sequence, as if it had been shot at Chernobyl.
Although the script includes some heavy-handed gags aimed at grown-ups (when Chanticleer cries, "That's blackmail!" Pinky replies, "That's show business!"), "Rock-A-Doodle" is unlikely to attract large, adult audiences as has Disney's "Beauty and Beast." The ideal viewer for the film would be a sentimental 9-year-old who divides his time between MTV and his parents' Elvis CDs.
Glen Campbell: Chanticleer
Christopher Plummer: The Duke
Sandy Duncan: Peepers
Eddie Deezen: Snipes
Ellen Greene: Goldie
Charles Nelson Reilly: Hunch
Goldcrest Films in association with Samuel Goldwyn Co. presents a Sullivan Bluth Studios Ireland Ltd. production. Director Don Bluth. Producers Bluth, Gary Goldman, John Pomeroy. Co-directors Goldman, Dan Kuenster. Executive producers John Quested, Morris F. Sullivan. Screenplay David N. Weiss. Musical score Robert Folk. Original songs T.J. Kuenster. Running time: 1 hour, 14 minutes.