Director: Kevin Johnson | 87 minutes | animation, comedy, family | Dutch voice cast: Ricardo Blei, Stefania, Rico Verhoeven, Bizzey | Original Voice Cast: Big Sean, Marissa Jaret Winokur, Snoop Dogg, Kevin Chamberlin, Cesar Millan, Colby Lopez, Cher Rue, Harland Williams, Manny Streetz
Once upon a time there was a dog named Trouble who inherited $ 12 million from his owner. That owner was the wealthy businesswoman Leona Helmsley, who was nicknamed ‘Queen of mean’ because of her tyrannical approach to her staff. Because that twelve million was an inordinate amount of money to be able to care for the animal (nine years old at the time of his owner’s death), the inheritance was reduced to two million dollars. According to his new caretaker Carl Lekic, the manager of one of Helmsley’s largest hotels, it was spacious enough to maintain Trouble for ten years. So what did those costs go up to? $ 100,000 was paid annually to security, $ 8,000 went to care, and $ 1. $ 200 was earmarked for dog food (a little dog who swims in the money will probably turn his nose at kibble and tripe). For Lekic himself, there was a “salary” of $ 60,000 for properly performing his duties as a caregiver. After Troubles died at the age of twelve, the rest of the money went to a charity fund. Against Helmsley’s wishes, her beloved dog was not buried with her in the family mausoleum; New York State law forbade this.
This true story is undoubtedly a source of inspiration for the animated film ‘Trouble’ (2019) by director Kevin Johnson. The American has more than two decades of experience in the world of animation, including as a Creative Consultant, Animator and Storyboard Artist. His resume features titles such as ‘The Iron Giant’ (1999), ‘Open Season’ (2006), ‘Astro Boy’ (2009) and ‘Alvin and the Chipmunks 3’ (2011). ‘Trouble’ is the second full-length animated film he directs, after ‘The Jungle Book’ from 2014 (not to be confused with the superior live action film adaptation Jon Favreau made two years later). Perhaps not the most appealing title, but Johnson is a hard-working man who still has his share in the crowded animation landscape in the margins. For the story of ‘Trouble’ he collaborated with no less than five different writers, of whom Judah Miller (known for the adult animated series ‘American Dad’ and ‘King of the Hill’) is the best known. That is quite a lot of people for a film that focuses primarily on small children and is therefore not too complicated.
The little dog Trouble feels like a king in the enormous villa of his owner, an old rich baroness. He has a huge bed to himself, he gets to eat a large steak every day (and he can eat it at the table!), Gets a massage and after a big errand, his behind is rinsed for him. Nothing to take that lice life away from him. Or maybe… One day his dear boss dies and then the future for Trouble suddenly becomes very uncertain. A distant cousin of the Baroness considers herself rich as the only heir and suddenly finds herself on the doorstep with her equally mean husband. They want to get rid of the ‘mutt’ as soon as possible. Trouble ends up among the street dogs, unfriendly dancing squirrels and angry pizza bakers and has the greatest possible trouble to survive in the angry outside world. Fortunately there is the singing pizza delivery boy Zoë who takes him under her wing. At the same time, the dark duo who have moved into the villa discovers that they really need Trouble in order to make any claim to the fortune. They hire a curious but illustrious animal detective to track down the dog.
The original version features the voices of Big Sean, Snoop Dogg and dog trainer Cesar Millan among others; in the Dutch translation, the characters are voiced by YouTube star Stefania, kickboxer Rico Verhoeven and rapper Bizzey, among others. A colorful company with many musical qualities, which, however, cannot prevent ‘Trouble’ from being disappointing. There is little to criticize about the animations, although it is not groundbreaking what we are presented with. The biggest flaw is the writing; the story is not very original, the characters are moderately developed and the humor rarely turns out as the makers intend. The evil squirrels, for example, who start a Michael Jackson-esque dance every now and then, mainly get on the nerves, just like the animal detective. The difficult relationship between Trouble and an embittered street dog works out better, although the message associated with this storyline is a bit trite. The cameo of singer-songwriter Jason Mraz seems to have been dragged on by the hair and will probably not mean anything to the young Dutch viewers.
In the overflowing range of animation films you have to come from a good family to stand out a bit and to impress. The makers’ intentions are undoubtedly good, but ‘Trouble’ unfortunately misses the point too often.