Movies That Ruined My Childhood – All Dogs Go to Heaven
Our final look at Dom DeLuise movies brings us to a dark chapter in our childhood (or dark chapters, cause goddamn, they made a million of these damn movies.) Coming from horror master and children’s movie animator Don Bluth, All Dogs Go to Heaven deserves a place with Plague Dogs, Watership Down, and Wizards as one of the creepiest, scariest animated films of all times.
All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989)
This film, ostensibly aimed at children, tells the story of Charlie (voiced by Burt Reynolds), the second worst dog in the world. It also contains the first worst dog in the world, Carface, but more about that later. Charlie is a hard drinking, hard gambling, wart faced menace to society, who runs a lucrative underground casino for animals. We find him in a pound, on death row, but he is quickly sprung by his nervous dachshund associate Itchy (Dom DeLuise.) We discover that Charlie’s junior partner, Carface, has set him up in order to take over the business. Charlie catches on too late, and Carface runs him over, in what is only one of the many many morally reprehensible and childhood scarring moments of this film.
Thanks to the titular loophole, all dogs, even scumbags like Charlie, go straight to heaven. Once there, however, Charlie makes a mockery of all things sacred, steels a pocket watch that represents his time on Earth, and escapes back to his life of squalor. He is warned, on his way out, that he can never come back to heaven, but hey, beer is cheap and with his watch, Charlie is now functionally immortal.
Charlie goes on a mission of unadulterated revenge, kidnapping Carface’s chief asset: a young girl named Anne-Marie who can speak with animals, and therefore can fix the races that are Carface’s bread and butter. He then lies to the child, convinces her that he will find her parents, and uses her just as Carface did. Hooray for the heroes!
After racking up another hour of felonies, Charlie goes soft and trades his immortal life to save Anne-Marie. See, a happy ending! Oh wait, not so fast because this movie is not done screwing with us just yet…
To get proper feel for why this movie is such an emotional train-wreck, I’ve made a handy summary of all the offenses Don Bluth felt children needed to see.
1. Did I mention Charlie is canine pond-scum?
Charlie drinks, smokes, steals, gambles, cheats, and, I don’t know, KIDNAPS a little girl. He then imprisons her, for financial gain. He is a tramp to the ladies, and a world class jerk to his only friend. At one point Itchy takes a vicious beating for Charlie, but Charlie basically just shrugs it off as just another debt to pay back his old partner for. And he’s ugly as sin. Don Bluth loves to draw hideous creatures, but usually he leaves the hero to be at least somewhat palatable. Not Charlie. He’s got such an ugly soul, he’s even physically loathsome. You know, so the children can root for the underdog…
2. Pretty much every character in this film is worse.
Itchy is a coward and witting accomplice to all of Charlie’s deeds, who only wants out to avoid more beatings, not because what they’re doing is heinous. Carface is a canker sore on four legs who makes Wall St. bankers blush. His accountant, Killer the chihuahua, is both a coward and a sadist, who torments Anne-Marie, and has no compunctions about pulling the trigger on a drive by shooting aimed at his former employer and a child. Charlie gets to be the hero in this picture by virtue of being the least morally retrograde character in a rogues gallery that would make Batman quit. Instead of all dogs going to heaven, Don Bluth has made a damning argument for all dogs deserving hell, which is convenient, because…
3. Charlie goes to hell.
Throughout All Dogs Go to Heaven, Charlie is tormented by visions of hell-fire and torture. Once again, Don Bluth spares no expense in showing the nastiness of the world, because Charlie’s hell is going to be utterly terrible. Cotton Mather and Pat Robertson’s bluster can’t hold a candle to the horrors that rightfully await our hero. As a child, this vision is triply distressing: we know Charlie is bad, but Hell is so awful, we start to hope he can worm his way out of it. But not really, because he is such a world-class shit, he deserves it. So when he does weasel off by doing just one good deed, we are both relieved and pissed, because the filthy mongrel deserved something for all his chicanery! So now, I’m 11 years old and debating the pro’s and con’s of the nature of purgatory as a necessary penance for assholes who screw up but manage to not be completely awful. Great. Just great. I was hoping for Lady and the Tramp, but what I got was an introduction into Catholic catechism about the afterlife. Damn you, Don Bluth.