Dog Who Stopped the War, The (Blu-ray Review)

  • Reviewed by: Stuart Galbraith IV
  • Review Date: May 08, 2024
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Dog Who Stopped the War, The (Blu-ray Review)


André Melançon

Release Date(s)

1984 (January 30, 2024)


Les Productions La Fête (Canadian International Pictures/Vinegar Syndrome)
  • Film/Program Grade: B+
  • Video Grade: A
  • Audio Grade: A
  • Extras Grade: A

The Dog Who Stopped the War (Blu-ray)

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A French-Canadian children’s drama, The Dog Who Stopped the War (La guerre des tuques, “The Tuque War,” 1984) is another one of these Criterion-level releases from Canadian International Pictures (CIP), which is doing marvelous work bringing attention to classic Canadian cinema via sparkling high-def transfers and loading them—overwhelming them, really—with hours and hours of supplementary features. Many of these films received little-to-no distribution in the U.S., and a number of them (e.g., Dirty Money) have proven revelatory, major finds, all from a cache of cinema waiting to be discovered outside their native Canada.

The Dog Who Stopped the War is a slight but effective little movie, the first in a regular series of Tales for All children’s movies produced by Les Products la Fête. At the start of the Christmas/New Year holiday in a small Quebec town, school children decide to spend their vacation fighting an epic snowball war. Breaking into two sides, the boys (and a few girls) mostly ally themselves with “General Luc,” a bossy kid with a military bugle, while the much smaller group of opponents are led by Marc, who owns a big dog—a St. Bernard, I think—named Cléo. Also in his camp is a stereotypical glasses-wearing Asian kid-genius named François who designs an enormous snow fortress in the snowy hills overlooking the town. The simple plot follows the two groups as they attack and defend themselves. Those in the fort, for instance, inject snowballs with ink, creating a nasty mess for both sides.

The Dog Who Stopped the War is rather like a feature-length, French-Canadian Our Gang/Little Rascals-type movie. Like those classic Hal Roach-produced shorts of the 1920s and ‘30s, the kids come up with cute and ingenious homemade devices: snow catapults, a snowball throwing cannon, etc., wear handmade helmets, swords, and shields. Like the Our Gang shorts, their ingenuity is only just a bit beyond what seems possible for elementary school-age children. The snow fort/castle, for instance, is so massive it would seem to require a heavy-duty bulldozer or backhoe to build such a thing, but a large group of determined kids it’s... possible, maybe.

Predictably, the film draws allusions to war generally, but this is done with a light touch and the movie soft-peddles such themes without becoming pretentious. The kids are pretty natural on the screen, not far removed from the world of Charles Schulz and The Peanuts—like that strip, adults are virtually absent—though the genius Asian kid and the twin boys who talk in unison are a bit much. There are a few miscalculations, like the addition of cartoony sound effects here and there, and while visually the movie hasn’t dated and overall is rather timeless, the musical score is a singularly mid-‘80s, synthesized one (by Germain Gauthier).

CIP’s Blu-ray of The Dog Who Stopped the War presents essentially four different versions of the film: the original French-language theatrical version (with optional English subtitles), the original English-dubbed theatrical version, and extended cuts in both languages. The English-dubbed version is good for what it is, but I’d recommend watching it in its original French. The extended cut runs less than two minutes longer than the theatrical version. All of these look and sound great. Presented in 1.85:1 widescreen, CIP sourced the original 35mm camera negative and the results look brand-new. Presumably released only in mono during its original run, the Blu-ray offers French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (French) and 2.0 (English) mixes. The remixed 5.1 track makes good use of the surround changes with directional sound effects.

The extras are voluminous, so much so that most are located on a second Blu-ray disc. They include: an audio commentary featuring author/film historian Kier-La Janisse, writer/film critic Ralph Elawani, and special guests; The Dog Who Stopped the War... As Time Goes On (2009, 81 min.) a feature-length documentary celebrating the film’s 25th anniversary with a new introduction by director Marie-Hélène Copti; Love and War (2023, 37 min.) with new interviews with stars Marie-Pierre A. D’Amour and Cédric Jourde; An Important Message (2023, 12 min.), a new interview with screenwriter Roger Cantin; a new audio interview with composer Germain Gauthier (2023, 16 min.); an archival interview with producer Rock Demers (1999, 8 min.); archival interviews with Melançon and 10 members of the cast (8 min.); deleted scenes in French and English (2 min.); theatrical trailers for The Dog Who Stopped the War and four other Melançon films; and, finally, there’s a full-color booklet featuring a new essay on producer Nicole Robert by Fantasia programmer Marc Lamothe, plus an extended interview with D’Amour and Jourde.

I liked but didn’t love The Dog Who Stopped the War. Maybe I wasn’t in an entirely receptive mood when I saw it, but I can also easily see how Canadians would embrace it as a homegrown classic. It’s a certainly a good, universally appealing film to watch with the family during the Christmas break, and CIP has done an outstanding job with both the video transfer and extra features.

- Stuart Galbraith IV