DOUG’S 1st MOVIE doesn’t have musical numbers, incredible computer generated animation or epic situations. It does have unique animation, with characters in skin colors in various pastels; honest, age-appropriate characterizations; and, an overarching morality to do the right thing at all times. Following the success of the ABC television program, DOUG’S 1st MOVIE hits the screens with a charming, slow-paced, but rather complex story.
Not made for the youngest of children, the movie features Doug Funnie (Thomas McHugh) in his hometown of Bluffington with all of his old friends including Skeeter (Fred Newman) and Patti (Connie Shulman). The story begins with a bully named Roger trying to scare Doug and Skeeter beside polluted Lucky Duck Lake. Roger and his villainous friends pretend to be a monster, but they actually end up being scared and run off by the appearance of a real monster.
Back at Beebe Middle School, Patti is becoming friendly with an upperclassman named Guy (Guy Hadley), who wants her to join him in organizing the St. Valentine’s Day dance. Initially, Patti is excited about working with this smooth-talking, assured older boy. Doug is disappointed because he thought that both he and Patti would be organizing the dance together.
Doug soon has other things on his mind, however, when the actual monster of Lucky Duck Lake surfaces. At first, Doug and Skeeter are frightened of him, but they soon realize he is very benevolent and kind. They name him Herman Melville, after the author of MOBY DICK. Town business tycoon and owner of Lucky Duck Lake, Mr. Bluff, gets wind of the monster’s appearance and sends out some FBI-like goons to find Herman and squelch a press conference revealing his existence. Doug must find a way to both save the “monster” and win Patti back.
DOUG creator Jim Jinkins says, “Everything is on such a larger scale with this film. It’s the same Doug, with the same friends, but much larger. There’s more story, the stakes are higher, it’s scarier, and there’s more revealed about Bluffington.” Indeed, parents themselves may find something to enjoy within this movie’s rather complex plot.
There is much to commend about this movie. The bullies are thwarted in their nefarious schemes. Responsibility and manners are encouraged. Telling the truth is also encouraged, and, more than once, the audience hears the message, “Do what’s right, no matter what people may think.” Also, the literary references to Herman Melville, and others, add a dash of intelligence.
Not polluting is also a message in the movie, but it is lost in the bigger plot. Furthermore, the owner of Lucky Duck Lake, Mr. Bluff, is painted as a sort of ignorant, careless big-money, who-cares-about-the-environment type tycoon. Hence, while the filmmakers champion Doug and his classmates as real and honest characters, they depict Mr. Bluff as a sort of anti-capitalist stereotype.
The only other drawback to this movie, and it is minor, is that Herman Melville, “the monster,” is depicted as real, within a context of a realistic American town. Parents will have to correct their little ones on the non-existence of such monsters. But, the predominantly positive theme of the monster’s appearance in the movie is to teach children not to be afraid of things they initially don’t understand. Herman turns out to be a very kind and lovable monster, and not the wicked image the boys imagine him to be.
DOUG’s 1st MOVIE moves along rather laconically, and it isn’t too flashy. But, it is relevant and popular with today’s kids. Therefore, the filmmakers’ have numbered their movie in the hopes that many more will occur. As long as they remain moral, and filled with good messages, they will be a welcome presence to today’s screens, which seldom teach children to do the right thing.
Moderately strong moral worldview to do the right thing, with a pro-environment message & the inclusion of a mythical creature as a major plot device; some mild name calling, but no obscenities or profanities; some action scenes of chasing, falling into the water & men threaten with guns that shoot nets; no sex but boy asks girl for a kiss; no nudity; no alcohol use; no smoking; and, burping, pranks, & villain lies to get the girl, but eventually loses her.