'Rock-A-Doodle' nothing to crow about

April 03, 1992|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Film Critic

"Rock-A-Doodle" do? I think, unless you're under the age of 10, it's more a case of "Rock-A Doodle" don't.

Don Bluth's animated retelling of the Chanticleer story in pupil-splattering colors and eardrum-shattering music casts the classic story in the idiom of rock 'n' roll. Why? Why ask why?

Chanticleer, that icon of deluded male vanity, has become an Elvis imitator, with a fat greasy pompadour, a white jumpsuit open to the navel and a fragile tatter of an ego. I'd vote for him on a stamp, but do I want to spend a long time in a movie theater with him? With other people's kids? Do I look that stupid?

Bluth, the renegade Disney animator who's etched out a decent counter-Disney career with "The Land Before Time" and the original "An American Tail," is aiming much lower this time, for the seething prepubescent audience. Thus everything in the movie is bolder, simpler, brighter, louder. It's as though it was recorded on a machine that went up to 11 instead of just 10. Loud? Try sticking your head inside an electric guitar during amateur heavy-metal night at Hammerjacks for roughly the same effect.

In original form, Chanticleer is a vain cock who thinks his crowing brings the sun up each morn. When he oversleeps and learns it doesn't, he's crushed and leaves the farm. Then, the sun stops coming up, so the animals drag him back on station. Bingo. Sunlight.

In this version, he goes to "the city" and becomes the biggest thing since the Pelvis shook his bootie on the Sullivan show and changed America forever. But Bluth blows his main chance, which is to evoke a "city" crawling with vermin and vibrant with nasty neon and slinky women. Instead his city has the same generic feeling of the urban hub that housed "The Jetsons."

The movie is overfilled with cute characters, with names like "Peepers" and "Patou," and eventually they all merge together like squawking barnyard critters pecking and clawing for a few grains of corn.

The evil owls who attempt to drown the world in Chanticleer's absence aren't bad, but they seem to belong in "The Black Cauldron." It makes you realize what a piece of work was "Beauty and the Beast."

'Rock-A-Doodle'

Produced by Don Bluth.

Released by Goldwyn.

Featuring the voices of Glen Campbell and Christopher Plummer.

Rated G.

**

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