Sgt. Stubby (PG) | Close-Up Film Review

Dir. Richard Lanni, US, 2018, 84 mins

Cast: Helena Bonham Carter, Logan Lerman, Gérard Depardieu

Review by Michelle Moore

War is not something we tend to discuss with very young children. The blood, fighting and killings are not a subject we want these young lives to be thinking about.

Although SGT. STUBBY is a war-based feature, it is portrayed in such a way the violence is not the main aspect of the movie, but rather the innocent and fearless adventure of a dog and his army career.

Sgt. Stubby is the most decorated dog in American history and this CG animated battlefield adventure tells you why exactly that is. Young Robert Conroy (Lerman) is patrolling the streets when he sees a stray dog. Feeling sorry for it, he throws the dog a cookie. Unbeknown to him, this stray dog is about to change his life.

Told in part by Conroy’s sister (Bonham Carter), SGT. STUBBY explores how the stray dog joins his new master on the battlefields of the First World War after learning how to lift his paw into a salute.

On the battlefield he becomes an unofficial mascot, gaining his own dog tags, scaring away rats, barking alerts, comforts the wounded, searches out the enemy and captures a German soldier.

Even when he is wounded in action, Stubby makes his way back to his troops to finish what he had started and when the German soldier’s release gas over a section of France, Stubby is amazingly resourceful and saves lives.

It may be quite shocking when the new soldiers come onto the battlefields for the first time and see those already there exhausted by their experiences. The first explosion is a dreadful time for all involved but when Stubby helps to dig out soldiers that are wounded he becomes quite a pivotal addition to the fight.

Although wars are bloody and violent, Filmmakers have taken the choice not to show casualties, killed soldiers, wounded men or actual gun fire. This is not reflected in the animation as instead it shows tidy, well-constructed trenches and soldiers holding their wounds. This is a little strange considering the violence on TV many children are privy too already but nevertheless works well.

Although many people would assume a good animated movie has to have a Disney stamp of approval, this one dismisses that theory as it is a heart-warming, honest and eye watering movie that tries to be as true to the era (landscape/music) and story as possible.

It is a very poignant tale, particularly when Stubby is injured in the line of duty, a close soldier friend is not found and when the flu epidemic begins and Conrad recovers when his best buddy returns. There are also a few sly remarks, such as calling the French man “froggie” for example.

Stubby is the first dog to be given a rank in the U.S. Army for his bravery and courage and you begin to wonder why it has taken so long for the tale of such an incredible and heroic animal to be made into a movie; real life or animated.

In his short life Stubby achieved greatness and saved the lives of many and is still recognized as the most decorated dog in American history. SGT. STUBBY will open your eyes to the things most people have and will never experience.

SGT. STUBBY is released in cinemas 10th August 2018