All Dogs Go to Heaven [1989]

After retrieving Gabriel's Horn in the 1996 movie, All Dogs Go To Heaven 2, the irrepressible German shepherd Charlie Barkin and his loyal dachsund sidekick, Itchy Itchiford, are not interested in returning to heaven; rather, they continue their canine adventures on Earth in MGM Animation's television series of the same name, which aired from 1996-1999. Both the movie sequel and television series are loosely based on Don Bluth's 1989 film, All Dogs Go To Heaven, though Bluth was not involved in these spinoff projects and the only returnee from the original film is Dom DeLuise (again voicing the part of Itchy). Set in present day San Francisco, the television series includes many of the characters from the film sequel, though Charlie and Sasha are now mostly friends, Charlie and Itchy live as bachelors, and Carface plays a lesser role. "Friends to the Rescue" is a DVD compilation of four 22-minute episodes from the show's first season, following the escapades of Charlie and Itchy as newly inducted guardian angels, assigned various "missions" by the watchful whippet archangel, Anabelle. Many of the voiceovers will be familiar including Sheena Easton (Sasha), Bebe Neuwirth (Annabelle), and Ernest Borgnine (Carface). The newcomer to the cast is Steven Weber who lends his voice as Charlie in a lineup of palatable (if not mildly bland) storylines offering tidy lessons in friendship and kindness. The best of the bunch is the humorous "Cyrano de Barkinac" when Itchy falls for a lovely pooch name Bess and enlists the help of "Charlie's Charm School" to win her favor. While Bluth's original film explored themes of crime, death, betrayal, and heaven in an artistically quirky musical format, these tales are straightforward Saturday morning fare reminiscent of Disney's Aristocats. --Lynn Gibson

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