Friday, March 29, 1985.
LIFE IS FULL OF little surprises. When it comes to choosing up sides for the Great Christmas Holiday Snow War, “General” Luke (Cédric Jourde) expects his classmates to do it his way.
Mark (Julien Elie) has another idea. As opposing general, he has had quite enough of the forceful Luke’s imperious pronouncements.
Instead of the leaders choosing their armies in the alternating style that Luke proposes. Mark insists that the troops be allowed to choose which leader they will follow.
And another surprise. More kids decide to stand with pushy Luke than sensitive Mark.
Perhaps there won’t be a war after all.
But what about the new girl in town, the self-possessed Sophie (Maripierre Arseneau-D’Amour)? The moment she locks eyes with Luke, a different kind of battle is joined.
Sophie will prove to Luke that girls are better tacticians than boys. She and her sister Lucy (Maryse Cartwright) throw in with Mark’s smaller force, the group given the option of building and defending a fort.
Filmed during a postcard-perfect winter in rural Québec, The Dog Who Stopped the War is the English-language version of La guerre des tuques, a picture that earned enough during its home-province release to become Canada’s 1984 domestic boxoffice champion. Released locally to coincide with Vancouver schools’ spring break, it is hoping to repeat its Québec success in the rest of the country.
Like director Bob Clark’s charming A Christmas Story, The Dog combines a kind of elemental nostalgia with comfortably child-sized fantasies. Shot in the small town of Baie St. Paul, not far from St. Urbain, its setting evokes a feeling of semi-rural wholesomeness for adults.
Offering a slightly larger-than-life thrill for the pre-teen set is the snow fort designed by little Warren (Duc Minh Vu), the bespectacled class brain. An awesome ice palace with the complexity of a medieval castle, it significantly evens the odds for the outnumbered defenders.
The dog of the title is Mark’s lifelong companion Cleo (Lucy). A nine-year-old St. Bernard, her eleventh-hour involvement in the combat adds a touch of harsh — arguably too harsh — reality to the proceedings.
There’s no argument, though, about the quality of the performances that director André Melançon draws from his preteen acting ensemble. The Dog Who Stopped the War is the first of a series of Canadian-made “Tales for All,” a series that promises to fill the void left by the recent withdrawal of the Disney organization from the General-rated entertainment field.
The above is a restored version of a Province review by Michael Walsh originally published in 1985. For additional information on this archived material, please visit my FAQ.
Afterword: How time flies when you’re remembering movies. It seems as if we were just marking Canada’s centennial, or celebrating Vancouver’s 100th birthday — both events occasions for World Fairs. This year, our Northern nation is 150 years old, and the Pacific Cinémathèque is participating in a year-long program called Canada on Screen. Together with the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), Library and Archives Canada and the Cinémathèque québécoise, it has chosen 150 movie “masterworks.” A selection of these films will be screened for free across the country during the sesquicentennial year. Local screenings began last Sunday (January 6) with B.C. director Sandy Wilson’s feature My American Cousin, winner of the 1985 Genie Award for best picture.
Today (January 15), the Cinémathèque’s Cinema Sunday series continues with The Dog Who Stopped the War, the English-language version of director André Melançon’s 1984 family feature La guerre des tuques. It was the first in what became a 22-feature collection of General entertainment movies released between 1984 and 2004 by Montréal-based Les Productions la Fête. The company was founded by Québec-born Rock Demers, who was dedicated to producing “Contes pour tous (Tales for all).” Demers, now 83, is scheduled to be at Sunday’s screening via Skype to take questions from the audience. I expect he will have many kind words for Melançon, who directed three of Demers’s Contes pour tous, and who died in August 2016 at the age of 74.