16 April 2018 | dave-mcclain
unusual, engaging and educational
"Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero" (PG, 1:24) is an animated adventure, based on the true story of an American Army unit's canine mascot during World War I. Stubby (so named because of his small tail) was a stray and hadn't received formal training as a military working dog, but his contributions to his unit during the trench warfare at the Western Front during the Great War made him the first canine promoted to the rank of sergeant and, ultimately, the most decorated dog in U.S. military history. This computer-animated movie is directed and co-written by Richard Lanni, whose resume includes writing and directing big and small screen depictions of the final year of World War II. Lanni's co-writer, Mike Stokey, is a combat veteran who has served as a military advisor for numerous films and TV shows.
The titular mutt latches onto Army private Robert Conroy (voice by Logan Lerman) after Robert tosses him a cookie during a military parade. Stubby follows Robert to the make-shift basic training area for the Connecticut National Guard on the grounds of Yale University and won't leave him alone. Robert is afraid that Stubby's presence will get him and his tentmates, Elmer Olsen (Jordan Beck) and Hans Schroeder (Jim Pharr), in trouble, but Stubby charms their drill sergeant (Jason Ezzell) and gets to stay.
When the unit prepares to go fight, Robert bids Stubby a sad farewell, but Stubby refuses to let his best friend leave him behind. Stubby manages to jump on the troop train and then stow away on the ship taking the soldiers to France. Stubby continually manages to charm everyone around him - including the military powers-that-be - to whom he also demonstrates his usefulness - and stays with New England's 26th Infantry Division all the way to the front. When Robert is assigned to join a burly French soldier named Gaston Baptiste (Oscar nominee Gérard Depardieu) on his scouting missions, Stubby comes along, which is just the beginning of the pooch's exciting, dangerous and heroic wartime adventures.
"Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero" is an engaging and educational animated adventure. In spite of the horrors of war surrounding him, Stubby's charming, happy and loving nature clearly shines through. Meanwhile, there's a lot of educational value here (aided by sparse narration by Oscar nominee Helena Bonham Carter as Robert's older sister) - especially for younger Movie Fans who don't yet understand what war is (or know much about history), but are too young to be exposed to more graphic or complex depictions of man's inhumanity to man. That all makes this an unusual, but valuable and entertaining animated movie which is likely to appeal to kids, dog lovers and history buffs of all ages. "B+"