It's a Dog's Life (1955)

Genres - Children's/Family  |   Sub-Genres - Animal Picture  |   Run Time - 88 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Viewers tempted to avoid It's a Dog's Life because of exposure to the likes of Benji should think again. Life is a decidedly strange yet altogether charming and engaging film. Yes, it's a film that's basically suitable for children (some dated attitudes toward women and some disturbing scenes involving dogs aside), but it's not made for them; they can come along for the ride and have a fine time, but Life is really aimed at an older audience. It's a swell picture, an odd adjective to use perhaps, but one which fits this little charmer to a "t." Although it sounds like a Disney film, it avoids the kind of gooey, sticky, cutesy sentimentality that can be found in too many of that studio's family comedies. Life also has an interesting structure, shifting the focus of its story between several characters, but never feeling like it's meandering or getting sidetracked. Herman Hoffman's direction is skillful, setting the appropriate tone throughout, keeping the pace going at a nice but not excessive clip, and always keeping the story moving forward. Vic Morrow's voiceover is flavorful and quite well done, and Edmund Gwenn and Dean Jagger are in very fine form. If Jeff Richards is not as vivid a presence as one could wish, he still does what he's required to do. Above all, Life has a heart and a soul -- but it's wise enough to let you discover them rather than forcing them upon you.