Film News Roundup: Production Starts on Eddie Izzard-Judi Dench’s ‘Six Minutes to Midnight’

In today’s film news roundup, production starts on “Six Minutes to Midnight,” Artists for Change launches with “Lost Girls: Angie’s Story” and Sundance names five docs for its Edit and Story lab. PRODUCTION START Pro…

In today’s film news roundup, production starts on “Six Minutes to Midnight,” Artists for Change launches with “Lost Girls: Angie’s Story” and Sundance names five docs for its Edit and Story lab. PRODUCTION START Production has launched in the U.K. on the period thriller “Six Minutes To Midnight,” starring Eddie Izzard and Judi Dench. The […]

Shoot Begins On Lionsgate Thriller ‘Six Minutes To Midnight’ With Eddie Izzard, Judi Dench, Carla Juri, Jim Broadbent

Production is underway in the UK on thriller Six Minutes To Midnight, starring Victoria & Abdul duo Eddie Izzard and Judi Dench.
Filming will take place over six weeks in locations across Wales, UK. Lionsgate International is selling worldwide righ…

Production is underway in the UK on thriller Six Minutes To Midnight, starring Victoria & Abdul duo Eddie Izzard and Judi Dench. Filming will take place over six weeks in locations across Wales, UK. Lionsgate International is selling worldwide rights and Lionsgate UK will release in the UK. Directed by Andy Goddard (Downton Abbey) and written by Celyn Jones (Keepers), Izzard and Goddard, the film also stars Jim Broadbent (Paddington), Carla Juri (Blade Runner 2049), James…

Eddie Izzard Joins Australian Movie ‘The Call Back’

Eddie Izzard will star in “The Call Back,” and filming will start on the Australian movie later this month in and around Adelaide. Izzard (“Victoria & Abdul”) will play Henry, a British actor who has a relationship with an Australian restauranteur. French actress Vanessa Guide (“The New Adventures of Aladdin”), and Australian actors Emily Taheny […]

Eddie Izzard will star in “The Call Back,” and filming will start on the Australian movie later this month in and around Adelaide. Izzard (“Victoria & Abdul”) will play Henry, a British actor who has a relationship with an Australian restauranteur. French actress Vanessa Guide (“The New Adventures of Aladdin”), and Australian actors Emily Taheny […]

‘Victoria and Abdul’ Star Eddie Izzard on Secret History of ‘Love Across a Great Divide’ (Video)

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According to star Eddie Izzard, this is the perfect moment for his new film with Judi Dench, “Victoria and Abdul,” which tells the little-known story of Queen Victoria (Dench) and her unlikely relationship with a young Indian clerk named Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal).

“In this time of hatreds all around the world — Trump hate, Brex hate, this negative stick-your-head-in-the-sand, build a wall — this is love that’s conquered right across this massive divide,” star Eddie Izzard tells TheWrap’s Matt Donnelly in a video interview at the Toronto film Festival.

Also Read: ‘Victoria & Abdul’ Review: Judi Dench’s Queen Victoria Keeps This Smarm-ada Afloat

Izzard, joined by co-star Ali Fazal and director Stephen Frears, also spoke of the ongoing public fascination with the Kardashians and England’s royal family.

Focus Features is releasing “Victoria and Abdul” on Sept. 22.

Watch the video above.

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James Franco on Re-Creating a Bad Movie in ‘The Disaster Artist’: ‘The Upside Down of ‘La La Land” (Video)

‘The Disaster Artist’ Review: James Franco Comedy Isn’t a Bad Movie, But It’s About One

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According to star Eddie Izzard, this is the perfect moment for his new film with Judi Dench, “Victoria and Abdul,” which tells the little-known story of Queen Victoria (Dench) and her unlikely relationship with a young Indian clerk named Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal).

“In this time of hatreds all around the world — Trump hate, Brex hate, this negative stick-your-head-in-the-sand, build a wall — this is love that’s conquered right across this massive divide,” star Eddie Izzard tells TheWrap’s Matt Donnelly in a video interview at the Toronto film Festival.

Izzard, joined by co-star Ali Fazal and director Stephen Frears, also spoke of the ongoing public fascination with the Kardashians and England’s royal family.

Focus Features is releasing “Victoria and Abdul” on Sept. 22.

Watch the video above.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Toronto Film Festival Thanked Native Tribes for Use of 'Their Land' at Every Gala Screening This Year

117 Amazing Portraits From TheWrap's Toronto Studio, From Angelina Jolie to Jim Carrey (Photos)

James Franco on Re-Creating a Bad Movie in 'The Disaster Artist': 'The Upside Down of 'La La Land" (Video)

'The Disaster Artist' Review: James Franco Comedy Isn't a Bad Movie, But It's About One

Venice: Frears, Dench, Izzard, and Bollywood Star Ali Fazal Talk ‘Victoria & Abdul’

VENICE, Italy — British director Stephen Frears, Dame Judi Dench, actor-comedian Eddie Izzard and Bollywood star Ali Fazal largely steered clear of playing up the present-day relevance of period piece “Victoria & Abdul” – which addresses the real-life friendship between Queen Victoria and a young Indian Muslim clerk – at the film’s Venice press conference Sunday…. Read more »

VENICE, Italy — British director Stephen Frears, Dame Judi Dench, actor-comedian Eddie Izzard and Bollywood star Ali Fazal largely steered clear of playing up the present-day relevance of period piece “Victoria & Abdul” – which addresses the real-life friendship between Queen Victoria and a young Indian Muslim clerk – at the film’s Venice press conference Sunday.... Read more »

‘Victoria & Abdul’ Review: Judi Dench’s Queen Victoria Keeps This Smarmada Afloat

Forget the “Fifty Shades” movies: for real dominance and submission, check out “Victoria & Abdul,” all about the platonic friendship between the elderly Queen Victoria and one of her Indian subjects. As though their difference in wealth and station weren’t enough of a relationship imbalance, the old queen’s interest is clearly piqued when the much-younger man stoops down and kisses her foot at a luncheon.

Director Stephen Frears and writer Lee Hall (“War Horse”), adapting the book by Shrabani Basu, aren’t particularly interested in exploring the legacy of the United Kingdom’s rampant colonialism; frankly, they’re not even all that interested in Abdul. What the film offers instead is monarchy porn at its most regal — here a tea set, there an antimacassar, everywhere a frieze — and a for-your-consideration showcase for the inestimable talents of Dame Judi Dench.

She has, of course, tackled the role of Victoria Regina previously, in 1997’s stultifying “Mrs. Brown,” and once again she plays the monarch as a lonely widow, surrounded by suck-ups and schemers, disappointed by her children, and starved for human companionship. In the late 19th century (years after John Brown passed away), she gets that friendship from Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal, “Furious 7”), a Muslim clerk at an Agra prison who is selected (mainly because of his height) to travel to London to present her majesty with a ceremonial coin.

Also Read: ‘Suburbicon,’ ‘The Shape of Water,’ ‘Victoria & Abdul’ Headed to Venice Film Festival

Told not to make eye contact with her at the sumptuous banquet where the presentation takes place, he nonetheless gives her a big-eyed smile; Victoria likes the looks of him and keeps him around, and after the foot-kissing incident, he becomes an intimate aide. She asks him to teach her Hindi, but he tells her that a woman of her station should learn the more formal Urdu instead. Soon, he is her “Munshi,” a beloved teacher and advisor, much to the chagrin and then growing anger of her household staff.

Those needing a fix of fanciness between seasons of “The Crown” will luxuriate in the film’s finery; Victoria takes Abdul to the royal residences at Balmoral and the Isle of Wight (as well as Buckingham Palace) and even on a trip to Florence, where Puccini (Simon Callow) himself serenades Her Royal Majesty with a selection from his upcoming opera “Manon Lescaut.” Cinematographer Danny Cohen (“The King’s Speech”) turns on the gloss throughout, making every scene look like a souvenir booklet you’d pick up in Piccadilly Circus.

Also Read: ‘Drop the Mic’: James Corden Reveals Dream Rap Battle – and It’s Judi Dench Vs Maggie Smith

Dench, reuniting with her “Philomena” director Frears, gives us a superb Victoria as a woman over 80 who’s fed up with the trappings of power and a rigorous daily schedule of appearances. Her growing closeness with Abdul — even after she learns he’s married, even after she learns that India’s Muslim leader has declared a fatwa against her — gives her the strength to stand up to a prime minister (Michael Gambon) and oldest son (Eddie Izzard) who would like nothing more than to shove her out of the way.

Abdul, however, remains something of a cipher. He’s big and bouncy and smiling the first time we see him, heading to work at the prison, and he doesn’t change much over the course of the film. Why is he so accommodating to the empire occupying his native land? How would he be treated at home after consorting with the enemy? Would he want to use his influence to nudge Victoria toward changing her kingdom’s policies toward its colonies? Once he goes from being a humble servant to someone who has servants of his own, does he change? “Victoria & Abdul” can’t be bothered to tell us.

Also Read: Daisy Ridley, Johnny Depp and Judi Dench Enchant in First Footage From ‘Murder on the Orient Express’

Abdul’s fellow traveler Mohammed (the hilarious Adeel Akhtar of “The Big Sick” and “Four Lions”) gets to grumble on behalf of Victoria’s non-fans in South Asia, but Abdul just smiles and accommodates and holds the old lady’s hand. He’s a person who really existed — the film hedges it bets with an opening card that it’s “Based on a true story…mostly” — but the movie turns him into a twinkly hybrid of Forrest Gump and Pollyanna.

There’s not much to “Victoria & Abdul,” but as a delivery system for Judi Dench, it serves its purpose. Otherwise, it’s just Buckingham Palace fetishism cranked up to peak mumsy.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Judi Dench Gets Her First Tattoo for 81st Birthday

Everyone is a Suspect in ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ First Trailer (Video)

‘Suburbicon’ Review: George Clooney Overplays His Hand With Grotesque 50s Noir

‘Darkest Hour’ Review: Gary Oldman Is Brilliant in Vibrant, Timely Winston Churchill Drama

Forget the “Fifty Shades” movies: for real dominance and submission, check out “Victoria & Abdul,” all about the platonic friendship between the elderly Queen Victoria and one of her Indian subjects. As though their difference in wealth and station weren’t enough of a relationship imbalance, the old queen’s interest is clearly piqued when the much-younger man stoops down and kisses her foot at a luncheon.

Director Stephen Frears and writer Lee Hall (“War Horse”), adapting the book by Shrabani Basu, aren’t particularly interested in exploring the legacy of the United Kingdom’s rampant colonialism; frankly, they’re not even all that interested in Abdul. What the film offers instead is monarchy porn at its most regal — here a tea set, there an antimacassar, everywhere a frieze — and a for-your-consideration showcase for the inestimable talents of Dame Judi Dench.

She has, of course, tackled the role of Victoria Regina previously, in 1997’s stultifying “Mrs. Brown,” and once again she plays the monarch as a lonely widow, surrounded by suck-ups and schemers, disappointed by her children, and starved for human companionship. In the late 19th century (years after John Brown passed away), she gets that friendship from Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal, “Furious 7”), a Muslim clerk at an Agra prison who is selected (mainly because of his height) to travel to London to present her majesty with a ceremonial coin.

Told not to make eye contact with her at the sumptuous banquet where the presentation takes place, he nonetheless gives her a big-eyed smile; Victoria likes the looks of him and keeps him around, and after the foot-kissing incident, he becomes an intimate aide. She asks him to teach her Hindi, but he tells her that a woman of her station should learn the more formal Urdu instead. Soon, he is her “Munshi,” a beloved teacher and advisor, much to the chagrin and then growing anger of her household staff.

Those needing a fix of fanciness between seasons of “The Crown” will luxuriate in the film’s finery; Victoria takes Abdul to the royal residences at Balmoral and the Isle of Wight (as well as Buckingham Palace) and even on a trip to Florence, where Puccini (Simon Callow) himself serenades Her Royal Majesty with a selection from his upcoming opera “Manon Lescaut.” Cinematographer Danny Cohen (“The King’s Speech”) turns on the gloss throughout, making every scene look like a souvenir booklet you’d pick up in Piccadilly Circus.

Dench, reuniting with her “Philomena” director Frears, gives us a superb Victoria as a woman over 80 who’s fed up with the trappings of power and a rigorous daily schedule of appearances. Her growing closeness with Abdul — even after she learns he’s married, even after she learns that India’s Muslim leader has declared a fatwa against her — gives her the strength to stand up to a prime minister (Michael Gambon) and oldest son (Eddie Izzard) who would like nothing more than to shove her out of the way.

Abdul, however, remains something of a cipher. He’s big and bouncy and smiling the first time we see him, heading to work at the prison, and he doesn’t change much over the course of the film. Why is he so accommodating to the empire occupying his native land? How would he be treated at home after consorting with the enemy? Would he want to use his influence to nudge Victoria toward changing her kingdom’s policies toward its colonies? Once he goes from being a humble servant to someone who has servants of his own, does he change? “Victoria & Abdul” can’t be bothered to tell us.

Abdul’s fellow traveler Mohammed (the hilarious Adeel Akhtar of “The Big Sick” and “Four Lions”) gets to grumble on behalf of Victoria’s non-fans in South Asia, but Abdul just smiles and accommodates and holds the old lady’s hand. He’s a person who really existed — the film hedges it bets with an opening card that it’s “Based on a true story…mostly” — but the movie turns him into a twinkly hybrid of Forrest Gump and Pollyanna.

There’s not much to “Victoria & Abdul,” but as a delivery system for Judi Dench, it serves its purpose. Otherwise, it’s just Buckingham Palace fetishism cranked up to peak mumsy.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Judi Dench Gets Her First Tattoo for 81st Birthday

Everyone is a Suspect in 'Murder on the Orient Express' First Trailer (Video)

'Suburbicon' Review: George Clooney Overplays His Hand With Grotesque 50s Noir

'Darkest Hour' Review: Gary Oldman Is Brilliant in Vibrant, Timely Winston Churchill Drama

Eddie Izzard Drinks Tea, Confiscates Booze in Wartime Comedy ‘Whisky Galore!’ (Exclusive Video)

Eddie Izzard is a man on a mission in his new movie “Whisky Galore!” — and that mission involves an island full of Scots, 50,000 cases of whisky and copious cups of tea.

The stand-up comedian, actor and writer plays an uptight World War II commander investigating a missing freighter ship that ran aground, packed full of malt whisky in the middle of wartime rationing. And TheWrap has an exclusive clip of the alcohol-fueled maritime accident.

The comedy is based on the real-life story of the SS Politician that ran aground off the Island of Eriskay in the Outer Hebrides during gale force winds on Feb. 5 1941. The ensuing mayhem between the residents and the authorities was later turned into a book by Compton McKenzie and a film directed by Alexander Mackendrick in 1949.

Also Read: ‘American Gods’: 14 Historical and Cultural Stories Behind the Old Gods (Photos)

The remake of the WWII caper also stars BAFTA winner Gregor Fisher (“Rab C. Nesbitt”), James Cosmo and Ellie Kendrick (“Game of Thrones”), Kevin Guthrie (“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”), Naomi Battrick (“Waterloo Road”), and Sean Biggerstaff (the “Harry Potter” series).

Along with starring opposite Minnie Driver on FX’s series “The Riches,” Izzard has starred in “Ocean’s Twelve,” “Ocean’s Thirteen,” “Mystery Men,” “Shadow of the Vampire,” “The Cat’s Meow,” “Across the Universe” and “Valkyrie.”

Gillies Mackinnon directed “Whisky Galore!” from a script by award-winning writer Peter McDougall.

Also Read: ‘Game of Thrones’: First Official Images From Season 7 (Photos)

It is set for release in select theaters in Los Angeles and New York on May 12.

Read the studio’s official description below and watch the video above.

In 1943, the people of the isolated Scottish island of Todday are largely unaffected by wartime rationing, until their supply of whisky runs out. In the midst of this catastrophe, Sergeant Odd (Biggerstaff) returns on leave to court Peggy Macroon (Battrick), the daughter of the local shopkeeper (Fisher). Meanwhile, her sister Catriona (Kendrick) has just become engaged to meek schoolteacher George Campbell (Guthrie), although his stern, domineering mother refuses to give her approval. 

During a storm, the freighter S.S. Cabinet Minister runs aground near Todday and begins to sink. Two local inhabitants investigate and learn from its departing crew that the cargo consists of 50,000 cases of whisky. 

A battle of wits ensues between the stuffy English commander Wagget (Izzard), who wants to confiscate the salvaged cargo, and the islanders.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Eddie Izzard, Debra Winger, ‘Glee’ Star Kevin McHale Join Dustin Hoffman in ‘Boychoir’

‘Deadwood’ Star Ian McShane Says There’s a Script for the HBO Movie

Ian McShane to ‘Game of Thrones’ Fans: ‘Get a F—ing Life’

Eddie Izzard is a man on a mission in his new movie “Whisky Galore!” — and that mission involves an island full of Scots, 50,000 cases of whisky and copious cups of tea.

The stand-up comedian, actor and writer plays an uptight World War II commander investigating a missing freighter ship that ran aground, packed full of malt whisky in the middle of wartime rationing. And TheWrap has an exclusive clip of the alcohol-fueled maritime accident.

The comedy is based on the real-life story of the SS Politician that ran aground off the Island of Eriskay in the Outer Hebrides during gale force winds on Feb. 5 1941. The ensuing mayhem between the residents and the authorities was later turned into a book by Compton McKenzie and a film directed by Alexander Mackendrick in 1949.

The remake of the WWII caper also stars BAFTA winner Gregor Fisher (“Rab C. Nesbitt”), James Cosmo and Ellie Kendrick (“Game of Thrones”), Kevin Guthrie (“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”), Naomi Battrick (“Waterloo Road”), and Sean Biggerstaff (the “Harry Potter” series).

Along with starring opposite Minnie Driver on FX’s series “The Riches,” Izzard has starred in “Ocean’s Twelve,” “Ocean’s Thirteen,” “Mystery Men,” “Shadow of the Vampire,” “The Cat’s Meow,” “Across the Universe” and “Valkyrie.”

Gillies Mackinnon directed “Whisky Galore!” from a script by award-winning writer Peter McDougall.

It is set for release in select theaters in Los Angeles and New York on May 12.

Read the studio’s official description below and watch the video above.

In 1943, the people of the isolated Scottish island of Todday are largely unaffected by wartime rationing, until their supply of whisky runs out. In the midst of this catastrophe, Sergeant Odd (Biggerstaff) returns on leave to court Peggy Macroon (Battrick), the daughter of the local shopkeeper (Fisher). Meanwhile, her sister Catriona (Kendrick) has just become engaged to meek schoolteacher George Campbell (Guthrie), although his stern, domineering mother refuses to give her approval. 

During a storm, the freighter S.S. Cabinet Minister runs aground near Todday and begins to sink. Two local inhabitants investigate and learn from its departing crew that the cargo consists of 50,000 cases of whisky. 

A battle of wits ensues between the stuffy English commander Wagget (Izzard), who wants to confiscate the salvaged cargo, and the islanders.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Eddie Izzard, Debra Winger, 'Glee' Star Kevin McHale Join Dustin Hoffman in 'Boychoir'

'Deadwood' Star Ian McShane Says There's a Script for the HBO Movie

Ian McShane to 'Game of Thrones' Fans: 'Get a F—ing Life'

Film Review: ‘Rock Dog’

For a film in which a Tibetan mastiff with big musical dreams stalks a jaded feline rock star while honing his supernatural martial arts powers and dodging kidnapping attempts from a gang of lupine Mafiosi who run a pro wrestling business on the side, “Rock Dog” is surprisingly uneventful. Based on a graphic novel by… Read more »

For a film in which a Tibetan mastiff with big musical dreams stalks a jaded feline rock star while honing his supernatural martial arts powers and dodging kidnapping attempts from a gang of lupine Mafiosi who run a pro wrestling business on the side, “Rock Dog” is surprisingly uneventful. Based on a graphic novel by... Read more »

‘Rock Dog’ Review: This Animated Musical Isn’t Very Amped Up

Don’t get too excited, geologists: “Rock Dog” isn’t about an animal into minerals. It’s music that stirs the mountain mastiff in this sweet if ineffectual animated movie, purportedly the first instance of a Chinese animation property — an adaptation of Zheng Jun’s graphic novel “Tibetan Rock Dog” — outsourcing its production to America (“Free Birds” studio Reel FX).

With obvious nods to the melding of Eastern and Western cultures, and a hoped-for international appeal, the result is a low-key, simple — very, very simple — story of pursuing one’s dreams (and protecting sheep and foiling wolves) that never exactly soars as original entertainment, although it avoids the frantic, cheeky, attention-deficit ethos of so much mass-marketed kid fare.

The fact that “Rock Dog” prioritizes quiet charms and old-school silliness over winking obnoxiousness may make it a sleeper favorite for the family who’d rather ride a merry-go-round together than get jerked and tossed by the rollercoaster.

Also Read: ‘Zootopia’ Wins Annie Award for Best Animated Feature

A hand-drawn prologue sets up the situation in picturesque Snow Mountain, a serene village of wool-making sheep looked over by Khampa (voiced by J.K. Simmons), a towering Mastiff with legendary defensive skills for battling vicious wolves. In his thirst for vigilance against intruders, though, Khampa has decreed that music be off-limits — boo! — under the belief that it’s an unnecessary distraction.

For his happy-go-lucky son Bodi (Luke Wilson), who’s already challenged at following in his dad’s footsteps, the rule becomes an albatross when a radio falls out of a passing airplane, and Bodi is introduced to the sweet-hot electric guitar licks of feline rock god Angus Scattergood (Eddie Izzard). As only an abstract epiphany sequence of tripping through neon lights in space can signify, Bodi’s found his dad-defying calling: rock-and-roll stardom.

Also Read: ‘Lego Batman Movie’ Is ‘The Best Batman Film in Years’ And 8 Other Soaring Reviews

Venturing into the big city with his knit beanie, big eyes, and an unassuming sanxian (think Kubo’s lute) for an axe, neophyte Bodi good-naturedly assumes he can just join any struggling band in the musicians’ park, and drop by his idol Angus’s fortified mansion for rock lessons. Bodi, though, is more in demand than he realizes: paranoid recluse Angus, late on delivering a new hit single, sees in Bodi’s raw talent something worth exploiting. Meanwhile, a shadowy wolf duo (featuring Kenan Thompson). led by a mob-boss-like figure named Linnux (Lewis Black), is ready to capture Bodi and use him to breach Snow Mountain.

A movie like “Rock Dog” isn’t built to make a whole lot of narrative sense: it has the modest discipline of an inoffensively diverting Saturday morning cartoon stretched out to feature length. If a guitar shred-off between Bodi and a cocky big cat (Matt Dillon), or Izzard’s jokey riffs on petulant, lonely showbiz narcissism, or a dumb sight gag in the vein of Frank Tashlin/Jerry Lewis, puts a smile on you or your moppet’s face then co-writer (with Kurt Voelker) and director Ash Brannon (“Surf’s Up”) has done his job.

Ambition isn’t this movie’s strong suit: “Zootopia” may be more narratively and stylistically complete in realizing a multi-species metropolis. (It’s unclear, for example, why the “Rock Dog” world’s technology is strictly pre-digital.) The “Kung Fu Panda” franchise may be more elegant and sweeping with its Asian-infused cultural trappings. Even “The Lego Batman Movie” makes resonant points about talent and fame. The lower-budgeted, more squarely designed “Rock Dog” is pretty Zen-like about its approach, though: “Here’s something sweet, here’s something cute, here’s Sam Elliott voicing a character named Fleetwood Yak, here’s some music, we’re moving on.”

Also Read: Universal, Illumination Book 5 Straight July 4 Weekends Through 2023

A little more puzzling is how meagerly the world of rock music is deployed as an emotional throughline to undergird feelings of rebellion, freedom, or even toe-tapping joy. (If one of your few rights-purchased, recognizable song snippets is Radiohead’s mournful “No Surprises,” you’re missing the point of a movie with “Rock” in the title.) Bodi’s journey from zero to hero is, in fact, fairly mellow — it’s not the toughest gig Luke Wilson’s ever had, that’s for sure — and the big from-the-heart song he writes (for Angus) is a forgettable middle-of-the-road ditty that’s more background noise than earworm material. Nothing about the use of music in “Rock Dog,” in fact, is likely to send you running to fire up your classics playlist afterward.

The conclusion, which drags everyone to Bodi’s threatened home village for a showdown with the wolves, is on one level refreshingly abbreviated and non-feverish, but also anti-climactic in putting a bow on its theme of fulfilling one’s destiny. “Rock Dog” stays firmly in the realm of the pleasant but unremarkable, an air-guitar effort when a stab at virtuosity might have yielded something more memorable.

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Don’t get too excited, geologists: “Rock Dog” isn’t about an animal into minerals. It’s music that stirs the mountain mastiff in this sweet if ineffectual animated movie, purportedly the first instance of a Chinese animation property — an adaptation of Zheng Jun’s graphic novel “Tibetan Rock Dog” — outsourcing its production to America (“Free Birds” studio Reel FX).

With obvious nods to the melding of Eastern and Western cultures, and a hoped-for international appeal, the result is a low-key, simple — very, very simple — story of pursuing one’s dreams (and protecting sheep and foiling wolves) that never exactly soars as original entertainment, although it avoids the frantic, cheeky, attention-deficit ethos of so much mass-marketed kid fare.

The fact that “Rock Dog” prioritizes quiet charms and old-school silliness over winking obnoxiousness may make it a sleeper favorite for the family who’d rather ride a merry-go-round together than get jerked and tossed by the rollercoaster.

A hand-drawn prologue sets up the situation in picturesque Snow Mountain, a serene village of wool-making sheep looked over by Khampa (voiced by J.K. Simmons), a towering Mastiff with legendary defensive skills for battling vicious wolves. In his thirst for vigilance against intruders, though, Khampa has decreed that music be off-limits — boo! — under the belief that it’s an unnecessary distraction.

For his happy-go-lucky son Bodi (Luke Wilson), who’s already challenged at following in his dad’s footsteps, the rule becomes an albatross when a radio falls out of a passing airplane, and Bodi is introduced to the sweet-hot electric guitar licks of feline rock god Angus Scattergood (Eddie Izzard). As only an abstract epiphany sequence of tripping through neon lights in space can signify, Bodi’s found his dad-defying calling: rock-and-roll stardom.

Venturing into the big city with his knit beanie, big eyes, and an unassuming sanxian (think Kubo’s lute) for an axe, neophyte Bodi good-naturedly assumes he can just join any struggling band in the musicians’ park, and drop by his idol Angus’s fortified mansion for rock lessons. Bodi, though, is more in demand than he realizes: paranoid recluse Angus, late on delivering a new hit single, sees in Bodi’s raw talent something worth exploiting. Meanwhile, a shadowy wolf duo (featuring Kenan Thompson). led by a mob-boss-like figure named Linnux (Lewis Black), is ready to capture Bodi and use him to breach Snow Mountain.

A movie like “Rock Dog” isn’t built to make a whole lot of narrative sense: it has the modest discipline of an inoffensively diverting Saturday morning cartoon stretched out to feature length. If a guitar shred-off between Bodi and a cocky big cat (Matt Dillon), or Izzard’s jokey riffs on petulant, lonely showbiz narcissism, or a dumb sight gag in the vein of Frank Tashlin/Jerry Lewis, puts a smile on you or your moppet’s face then co-writer (with Kurt Voelker) and director Ash Brannon (“Surf’s Up”) has done his job.

Ambition isn’t this movie’s strong suit: “Zootopia” may be more narratively and stylistically complete in realizing a multi-species metropolis. (It’s unclear, for example, why the “Rock Dog” world’s technology is strictly pre-digital.) The “Kung Fu Panda” franchise may be more elegant and sweeping with its Asian-infused cultural trappings. Even “The Lego Batman Movie” makes resonant points about talent and fame. The lower-budgeted, more squarely designed “Rock Dog” is pretty Zen-like about its approach, though: “Here’s something sweet, here’s something cute, here’s Sam Elliott voicing a character named Fleetwood Yak, here’s some music, we’re moving on.”

A little more puzzling is how meagerly the world of rock music is deployed as an emotional throughline to undergird feelings of rebellion, freedom, or even toe-tapping joy. (If one of your few rights-purchased, recognizable song snippets is Radiohead’s mournful “No Surprises,” you’re missing the point of a movie with “Rock” in the title.) Bodi’s journey from zero to hero is, in fact, fairly mellow — it’s not the toughest gig Luke Wilson’s ever had, that’s for sure — and the big from-the-heart song he writes (for Angus) is a forgettable middle-of-the-road ditty that’s more background noise than earworm material. Nothing about the use of music in “Rock Dog,” in fact, is likely to send you running to fire up your classics playlist afterward.

The conclusion, which drags everyone to Bodi’s threatened home village for a showdown with the wolves, is on one level refreshingly abbreviated and non-feverish, but also anti-climactic in putting a bow on its theme of fulfilling one’s destiny. “Rock Dog” stays firmly in the realm of the pleasant but unremarkable, an air-guitar effort when a stab at virtuosity might have yielded something more memorable.

Related stories from TheWrap:

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Nick Kroll and John Mulaney to Host 2017 Independent Spirit Awards

Reigning Broadway stars Nick Kroll and John Mulaney will head back to the West Coast to host the Independent Spirit Awards.

The “Oh, Hello” creators will share emcee duties for the Feb. 25 ceremony, Film Independent announced Tuesday, to air exclusively on IFC.

“From film to television to Broadway, Nick Kroll and John Mulaney have been almost everywhere – and now their world domination will be complete when they host the 2017 Film Independent Spirit Awards,” Film Independent President Josh Welsh said in a statement.

Also Read: ‘Oh, Hello on Broadway’ Review: A Comedy Central Skit Makes the Jump to the Big Stage

“We couldn’t think of two smarter, funnier people to host our show, and look forward to having them on the beach,” he added of the Santa Monica ceremony.

Currently in its 32nd year, the Spirits celebrate achievement in independent filmmaking. Joel Gallen of Tenth Planet Productions returns for his third year as executive producer, while Shawn Davis returns for his 15th year as producer. Danielle Federico and Andrew Schaff serve as co-producers.

Mulaney is an Emmy winner and former head writer of “Saturday Night Live,” with numerous standup specials under his belt. Kroll is a longtime writer and actor who had a successful run with Comedy Central’s “Kroll Show.”

Related stories from TheWrap:

‘Oh Hello’ Theater Review: Nick Kroll, John Mulaney Put on a Show for the (Old) Ages

‘Oh, Hello on Broadway’ Review: A Comedy Central Skit Makes the Jump to the Big Stage

Nick Kroll, John Mulaney to Star in ‘Oh, Hello’ on Broadway

Reigning Broadway stars Nick Kroll and John Mulaney will head back to the West Coast to host the Independent Spirit Awards.

The “Oh, Hello” creators will share emcee duties for the Feb. 25 ceremony, Film Independent announced Tuesday, to air exclusively on IFC.

“From film to television to Broadway, Nick Kroll and John Mulaney have been almost everywhere – and now their world domination will be complete when they host the 2017 Film Independent Spirit Awards,” Film Independent President Josh Welsh said in a statement.

“We couldn’t think of two smarter, funnier people to host our show, and look forward to having them on the beach,” he added of the Santa Monica ceremony.

Currently in its 32nd year, the Spirits celebrate achievement in independent filmmaking. Joel Gallen of Tenth Planet Productions returns for his third year as executive producer, while Shawn Davis returns for his 15th year as producer. Danielle Federico and Andrew Schaff serve as co-producers.

Mulaney is an Emmy winner and former head writer of “Saturday Night Live,” with numerous standup specials under his belt. Kroll is a longtime writer and actor who had a successful run with Comedy Central’s “Kroll Show.”

Related stories from TheWrap:

'Oh Hello' Theater Review: Nick Kroll, John Mulaney Put on a Show for the (Old) Ages

'Oh, Hello on Broadway' Review: A Comedy Central Skit Makes the Jump to the Big Stage

Nick Kroll, John Mulaney to Star in 'Oh, Hello' on Broadway