WHAT IT’S ABOUT: Something’s not quite right in Burden Hill. The picturesque American suburb is plagued by haunted dog houses, zombie road kill and far too many black cats. With their “people” distracted by the monotony of day-to-day life, it’s up to a hodgepodge of neighborhood dogs (and one reluctant cat) to protect their community from supernatural threats.
Under the guidance of an aging society of “Wise Dogs,” canines with abilities beyond those of average pets, the beasts begin to take matters into their own paws.
WHY IT WORKS: “Beasts of Burden” is a narrative completely comfortable in its own fur. It’s a comic that feels like nothing else on the stands because it’s the talking animal film every adult secretly wants to see. It’s “Homeward Bound” with monster slaying, “Watership Down” minus moralizing, “The Adventures of Milo and Otis” sans Dudley Moore.
By balancing of a cast of dogs with personalities independent of—but not divorced from—their breed archetypes, “Beasts” balances humor, heart and horror and fosters the contrast necessary to elevate a genre.
WHY IT DOESN’T: “Beasts of Burden” is a property ripe for both cultivation and exploitation. With a premise fit for fans of all ages, but plots directed at audiences that can handle a touch of supernatural terror, studios could be tempted to dumb down a fan favorite while seeking the “Scooby-Doo” crowd. Is Hollywood ready for a “talking animal” film with a PG-13 rating that isn’t predictably stocked with pop culture references or sophomoric humor?
If Grant Morrison’s “We3” can find a studio, maybe that will open the doggie door for more sophisticated animal tales to get their cinematic due.
WHAT TO DO: Hire some trainers and call the proper humane organizations, because “Beasts” is too good for direct-to-disc CGI fodder. Only authentic animal actors augmented with subtle digital details can convey the reality of everyone’s own unruly, but ultimately beloved pets battling evil on their behalf.
Also, have Dorkin himself write the script or produce. With “Space Ghost: Coast to Coast” and “Superman” credits under his belt, the Eisner Award winner has proven his pen. It’s time to get a major motion picture credit on his IMDB resume.
CLOSING ARGUMENT: “Beasts of Burden” is a concept that pits the adorable against the abominable without the crutch of anthropomorphic clichés. With proper care and feeding, the comic could springboard into an adventure film franchise smarter (and scarier) than the average fare.
Would you dig a “Beasts of Burden” cinematic adaptation? How do you think a studio could best approach the series? Unleash your thoughts in the comment section!