"All Dogs Go to Heaven"

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Lots of children wish they had the power to communicate with animals, so it's a pretty common trope in stories aimed at kids. (How else to explain the annoying presence of Ma-Ti on Captain Planet?  "Heart?"  What kind of classical element is that?  Somewhere, Aristotle rolls over in his grave.)

The orphan (of course) Anne-Marie can talk to animals, so her gift is taken advantage of by an evil gangster bulldog, Carface Carruthers, who uses it for gambling purposes.  Stay with me here--at the beginning of the movie, Carface also kills his partner Charlie by getting him liquored up and running him over with a car and knocking his lifeless body into a river.  And it really is supposed to be a kids' movie, I promise.

Charlie, a German shepherd, is the Byronic hero of the tale.  He goes to Heaven--we are told, per the title, that all dogs go to Heaven--but he has a score to settle with Carface, so he takes his "life watch" and heads back to Earth to take care of his unfinished business.  He is warned that he will stay on Earth as long as his watch keeps ticking, but as soon as it stops, he will go straight to Hell.  Yes, Hell!

Questionable canine theology aside, this is the driving force of the film: the specter of our protagonist's eternal damnation.  We even get a horrific nightmare scene where Charlie is tortured in Hell.  As the film rolls along, we see the dogs gamble (not like this), steal, lie, get beaten, get nearly sacrificed to an alligator by a tribe of rats, get tied to an anchor to drown, set a generator on fire, and more.  Still a kids' movie.

Eventually, Carface gets eaten by the alligator, Anne-Marie becomes part of a family whose wallet Charlie stole, and Charlie indeed goes to Hell.  He ultimately gets to trade up for a spot in Heaven since he died saving Anne-Marie, but it turns out that Carface is up there too, wreaking havoc.  Bad dog!  Bad, bad dog!

Lesson learned:
Dog Heaven should be a little more selective.

All Dogs Go to Heaven.  Dir. Don Bluth.  Perf. Burt Reynolds, Dom DeLuise, Charles Nelson Reilly.  United Artists, 1989.
(Watch the Hell scene here on YouTube at about 2:15)
All Dogs Go to Heaven


  1. At age 30 this movie /still/ horrifies me rigid. I have seen it exactly once, years ago as a kid, and the imagery still haunts me! The cruelty to the dogs alone is...almost unspeakable. The only other ''children's'' movie that eclipses the horror of this one (for me) is Watership Down O_o

  2. That alligator scared me to pieces. He ate so many creatures. It bothered me so much and I still hate to think of that scene when he nearly eats Charlie. That pile of bones in the water was too much. I hated seeing that.