Finding a family friendly film involving animals and kids that co-stars living, breathing critters is proving more difficult with each digital upgrade that comes down the CGI pike.
It’s not just digital chipmunks any more. If you can talk Harrison Ford into co-starring with a digital dog in “Call of the Wild,” there’s no point in asking what animated squirrel co-star Disney has cooked up for its adaptation of “Flora & Ulysses,” which I will be reviewing shortly.
That makes this Indonesian dramedy, “June & Kopi,” a genuine throwback — emphasis on “genuine.”
It’s about two dogs — one of them front and center — who play a big role in a family’s life, especially in the safe upbringing of their adoring daughter. The dogs are real, real smart and real cute. You and your kids don’t have to be able to read subtitles to see what they do, and that June the White Swiss Shepherd and Kopi, her grey pitbull (I think) pal, are very very good dogs.
Aya (Acha Septriasa) is the one who finds and names this dog she finds in the first month of summer “June.” She has no collar, and as we’ve seen her chase chickens and be chased by rowdy tweenage boys, we know she’s lost.
Aya is so petite that you wonder if she’s a teen, but no. She’s married and a professional. When she brings the dog to their upscale home, there’s another dog there. Kopi is smart as a whip, able to open and close doors and respond to commands. He’s also there to shake hands when the husband (Ryan Delon) gets home.
As June has been left in a room which she pretty much trashed, husband Ale is ready to be rid of her. They’ve gotten a hint she isn’t good with kids, as well. But the room June trashed was “the baby’s room.” There is no baby. A framed ultrasound tells us there almost was one.
What is the dog doing by sniffing at Aya and giving her the attentive whimper-growl? She’s telling Aya to take another pregnancy test.
“June & Kopi” is that kind of movie. Little canine miracles like that abound. And as their little girl (Makayla Rose Hilli) is born and starts to grow up, June comforts her and becomes her inseparable companion.
Don’t even THINK of taking a vacation without that dog, unless you want the two of them to break out and track the family down and save the day. Again.
This story is so simple that it could have been filmed without dialogue like that French film “The Fox and the Child.” Images, visual clues and the dogs expressive faces and eyes tell the unadorned story.
All we get from the dialogue is that Aya is a comic book creator who is unemployed because she can’t come up with a decent idea (until the dog shows up), and that Indonesia is still pretty patriarchal, as Ale puts his foot down several times about “that dog” only to melt when that dog saves the day.
I don’t want to oversell this because this story is small-child-simple, slim-to-trite. There’s barely enough shepherd slapstick to go around. But it is surprisingly touching. And if you’ve got pre-school kids, they can follow “June & Kodi” without understanding one language or reading subtitles in another.
Seeing smart, soulful, well-trained dogs do their thing on the screen could make younger viewers reject any film that tries to use digital animal substitutes. And that would be a good thing.
MPA Rating: TV-14
Cast: Acha Septriasa, Ryan Delon, Makayla Rose Hilli
Credits: Directed by Noviandra Santosa, script by Noviandra Santosa and Titien Wattimena. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:30