Sunday, 7 June 2015

Russell Madness (2015) review

From the team that brought you Air Buddies, we now get the latest anthropomorphic dog sports movie Russell Madness. Russell, an amiable little Jack Russell terrier (see what they did there?), cannot get adopted from the pet store because he has an unfortunate habit of pissing all over the customers. When the fear of being put down at the pound (hey, some lovely themes of euthanasia and abandonment issues there for the kiddywinks) leaves Russell with the only choice of running away, he comes across a tiny, clothed monkey called Hunk. Meanwhile, the Ferraro's have moved back to the family wrestling stadium (which looks more like a vaudeville theatre), with the intent of setting the place back up the it's former glory. At this point, Russell makes his entrance, beating up an ex-prisoner wrestler with a back flip, which leads on to him getting a million hits on YouTube, which leads onto the villain of the film, Mick Vaughn (John Ratzenberger), the owner of the WUF (the west coast based Wrestlers United Federation), who has his own nefarious plans for little Russell.

While quite obviously based at the younger end of the children market, I still can't quite make my mind up as to whether Russell Madness is an innocent kids movie or a satire on wrestling. Mick Vaughn is quite obviously a parody of Vince McMahon, buying up the smaller wrestling organisations in order to dominate the market. Russell Maniac, as he has come to be known, is shocked when he finds out that wrestlers have been paid to lose to him, leading to the classic line "wrestlers win through love of the sport, not through faking it!" The Hammer (John Hennigan, aka John Morrison), the pro-wrestling champ that Russell fights, demands a rematch when he looses, and then states to Vaughn, connivingly, that millions will return to watch the pay per view. Despite all this, it still seems that the film is unclear as to what pro-wrestling is, as there is a tonne of boxing metaphors in the film i.e. "just because you lost the round doesn't mean you lost the match".

The film makes no secret of just how silly it is prepared to get. Hell, you see a tiny dog choke hold someone! I am prepared to forgive it for that though, as it is a very self aware film. The mash up of styles makes it feel like WWE never happened, and we are stuck in a parallel world where technology progressed but fighting styles and humour never evolved past Buster Keaton's Battling Butler. I can't help but admire this film, almost, for letting itself be so silly. It is quite obviously not going to compete with the likes of Disney and Pixar, it couldn't even get a proper cinema release. Really, the only thing this film has going for it is it's absurd premise.

If you have young children, they'll enjoy the monkey and the dog (I have to commend them for using Sean Giambrone as the voice for Russell, as he has a suitable childlike voice, and not the unrealistic 20ish-famous-male actor voice you was expecting). The film is bright and colourful. You'd be able to sit with a child and joyfully laugh together at the ridiculousness of Russell Madness. And if that isn't true bonding, I don't know what is.



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