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Friday, June 1, 2012

Doggy Poo (Movie Review)

Title: Doggy Poo
Release Date: 2004
Run time: 33 minutes
Animated short, Korean

This odd little animated short is a uniquely-crafted fable offering a fresh, inspirational take on the meaning of life. The stop-motion animation is simple yet elegant, and the voice characterizations are delivered with candor, feeling and completely devoid of irony. Now when a film's protagonist is a sad, bulbous mound of excrement, it's easy to summarily dismiss it as ridiculous, trite, even tasteless. But remember, it wasn't so very long ago that parents were gazing quizzically at the television as their delighted children squealed at the antics of a yellow sponge wearing jeans. At the end of the day, it isn't so much the animal, chemical or mineral make-up of the main character, but whether or not the story achieves a poignant emotional high. This tale of a hopeful little pile of poo brings the viewer along on a shared journey, and why not, as every one of us seeks to find our place in the--

-- dude, you were seriously going to keep reading that? I was totally joking. It's a creepy Korean cartoon about a goddamn dog turd.

I first stumbled across Doggy Poo in 2007, which was about three years after its American debut. I saw the cover art, read the title and, if you know me at all, you know I watched that shit twice and then wrote an essay about it online.

It's five years later and I tell you, every person who read my essay and then watched Doggy Poo came back to inform me that I suck for introducing this thing to their consciousness. I say thank you, I try.

As a card-carrying member of Generation X -- well okay, the "card" is an old Blockbuster card -- I can tell you that our entertainment characters weren't only humans, superheroes, monsters, dolls, and fairy tale things. We had fun stuff. We had vaguely humanoid unexplainables, some good and some nightmarish. I'm referring to Smurfs, Weebles, the Schmoo, Cousin Itt -- that sort of thing. But I have peers who woke up in terror from bad dreams involving those scrubbing bubbles, we have debated hotly over whatever Grimace was, and I'm pretty sure that Teletubbies made my generation run the other way.

From an adult perspective, I've grown to appreciate today's "things," like Pokemon, Spongebob, and whatever the Yo Gabba Gabba guy Muno* is -- but even Muno's one-eyed nubbed-for-her-pleasure shape are nothing compared to the strangeness of Doggy Poo.

Once pinched out of a grunting puppy's butt, Doggy Poo plops onto the side of the road, and there he sits immobile. He can only mewl, moan, cry and hiccup as he endures the ongoing torment of birds, chickens, weather, and a pile of soil. His keening, his quivering mouth and streaming eyes are just too much. On the one hand, you want to sympathize. On the other hand is a plastic glove holding a pooper-scooper.

The antagonists are numerous, but the primary bad guy is a mean pile of soil. This soil is the one who tells Doggy Poo that he's shit. "You know where you came from. What else did you think you were?" he taunts. The soil eventually apologizes, but it's too late for viewer forgiveness -- he has made Doggy Poo sob appallingly for endless minutes. The soil tries to make Doggy Poo feel better through telling his own woebegone tale: having been dug out of the ground where he was perfectly happy fulfilling his life's work of growing potatoes, he got shoveled onto a cart, and then jounced out and onto the road, where he will soon die at the next passing cart's wheel.

Thanks for bumming everybody out, soil.

Easy to miss given its litany of quirks is the problem of Doggy Poo's time span. The puppy takes a dump in autumn. Through sweeping scenery shots it is suggested that a year passes. In that entire year not one person swept away a grunt in the road? Nor did it get driven over, stepped in, trod upon or washed away in the rain. You begin to wonder if maybe this is going to morph into story about a super-heroic, indestructible poo. Maybe the title is actually his superhero name. Maybe he'll get a cape and a leotard. Big "DP" on the front in comic book font.

Or not.

Okay, I'm poking fun at Doggy Poo. But obviously it made an impression, since this is the second time I'm writing about it, you clicked on this and you've read the whole thing. So let's end on a less shitty note.

This odd little animated short is a uniquely-crafted fable offering a fresh, inspirational take on the meaning of life. The stop-motion animation is simple yet elegant, and the voice characterizations are delivered with candor, feeling and completely devoid of irony. Though Doggy Poo dabbles with some universal themes such as entitlement, morality, destiny and class warfare, the ultimate message is that everyone here has a purpose in life. Even if you're just a piece of shit.

(*Muno is a giant dildo)

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