Australians will likely know the tale of Simpson and his donkey – staples of the World War who famously ferried injured soldiers to safety.
Perhaps better known to American audiences is Sgt. Stubby, a terrier and reportedly the most decorated dog of the conflict. His exploits quickly becoming known wide and far, the canine accompanied a heft of soldiers first and foremost among them Stubby’s faithful companion Robert Conroy (voiced by Logan Lerman) to the Western Front where he saved lives and detected enemy soldiers and weaponry well before they could be registered by human ears; long serving as the budding mascot for the troops who loved him.
Permitted to remain in present company after saluting a senior Officer, Stubby’s tale is relayed heartwarmingly as we cycle through the stories of the pup now forever preserved for all to see at the Smithsonian. Setting an animation and film aimed largely at children predominantly in a war setting being far from common, the most violent visuals are conveyed with saturated, abstract effect. The lighting up of the sky by incendiaries imparts much about the conflict that we would otherwise glean from a more lifelike recreation, while the terrifying deployment of mustard gas mimics one of the best and most heart-rending sequences in the excellent The Prince of Egypt.
There being limited to no dramatic conflict between any characters, and there are only a few to whom we are introduced, among them Gerard Depardieu’s French soldier, tension nonetheless readily emits from the trenches those few feet away, with reprieves in a local village addressing some of the war’s many dimensions and impacts.
Helena Bonham Carter unnecessarily commentates throughout, checking off little-needed information between varied and moving sequences as Robert and Stubby navigate the very worst time in their lives, made that much easier by each other’s presence.
Moving and reliably engaging for all ages and those anywhere and everywhere who love dogs, Sgt. Stubby was paid fitting tribute in this incessantly touching picture.
Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero screened as part of the Veterans Film Festival