It was tough being a hero of the Soviet Motherland. Poor Laika, the first dog placed in orbit, died from hyperthermia, but the Soviets covered-up the details of her painful demise for decades. In contrast, Ham the chimpanzee, the first hominid in space, lived another seventeen peaceful years in DC’s National Zoo following his mission into space. Have no fear, these cute canine cosmonauts will fare better than their inspiration in Mike Disa’s Space Dogs Adventure to the Moon (trailer here), which opens this Friday in regional markets.
If you missed the original Space Dogs, you should still be able to pick up on the subtleties of the relationships. Scrappy young Pushok still dreams of following in the footsteps of his German Shepherd cosmonaut father Kazbek—and he probably will, since family connections trump merit in the 1960s-era USSR. His mother Belka, a former space dog, has returned to the vaudeville circuit with her old partner Strelka, while Pushok is on a good will tour at the Kennedy White House. However, when Kazbek disappears while investigating suspicious activity on the Moon (including the theft of the Eifel Tower via tractor beam), Pushok and Belka will hitch rides on respective American and Soviet rockets to find him.
The Moon edition of Space Dogs is pleasantly safe family fare, but it is sometimes interesting to see how they deal with the historical details. JFK is never seen, but his presence in the White House is clearly implied. However, poor Nikita Khrushchev remains persona non grata. Disa and co-screenwriter Rolfe Kanefsky generally tip-toe around the harsh realities of Soviet life, but Freud the hairless cat is obviously a representative of the KGB or GRU attached to the Soviet space program, which makes him decidedly sinister. On the other hand, Chip the chimpanzee embodies a lot of American materialist stereotypes, but his Texan-ness is a clever touch.
Younger viewers who dig dogs and space are going to flip for Moon, because two plus two just equals four. However, it is historically savvy enough to keep parents from totally zoning out and wondering who will be brutally murdered next on Game of Thrones. Nice enough as a diversion for the kids, Space Dogs Adventure opens this Friday (8/26) throughout Texas and Arizona, the Aurora Plaza 8 in Colorado, and other cities (see complete list here).