Ewan Gleadow

Movie Review: Togo

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Copyright: Disney

Always excited to view what flavour of lime green vomit Disney are going to offer us, Disney+ has streamlined this content to somewhere out of my reach. Togo has its appeals, surprisingly. Willem Dafoe can sell us any form of nonsense he wants, and this latest pairing of man and dog appears to have made the usual rounds of Disney fans and hardcore Dafoe appreciators. Hopefully, the two shall never meet again, for this piece from director Ericson Core is an oddly sloppy mixture of good ideas and stalwart craftsmanship, with an overbearing hint of Disney-centric topics sure to pass their rigorous, family-friendly exams with flying colours.  

Taking us across the perfidious plains of Alaska, our story brings a tale of struggling adventure and travel. Dafoe is of course a tremendous leading man, playing well with some half-baked clichés and a couple of filler scenes. Ultimately though he does well, indicating some signs of life. Kicking around frozen tundra more often than not, audiences may find some odd charms in the simplicity of this one. An adventure following Leonhard Seppala (Dafoe) and his trustworthy, titular dog, doesn’t traipse or travel further than the borders of mediocrity. Many will be won over by this undefeatable pairing of adorable animal and masterful actor, myself included. 

Hypnotically uninspired direction, glazed over with a thick layer of lazy Disney whimsy, Togo doesn’t even try and break free from its expectedly dull moments. A strange gloss over the camera blurs the outer regions of the frame, presumably to focus in on those front and centre. It’s a glaringly odd decision to consciously make. Much of Togo doesn’t exactly feel awake or thriving. We limp on through the expected tropes of upbeat Disney filler, often pausing for a bit of faux emotional musings or moments of predictable, heart-wrenching horror as Dafoe and dog travel a long journey in the hopes of collecting a vaccine to aide ill children.  

Togo proved Disney can shovel some viewing figures towards notably great actors co-starring with dogs. The Call of the Wild backed it up less than a year later. With Dafoe at the helm, we’re offered competent performances loosely based on reality. Nothing inspired or wholly engaging, but for the standards Disney set themselves these days, this is well above their usual fluff. Sure to find its audience somewhere, the modern tirade of Disney’s live-action approach is, after all, only just beginning. It still features their usual tropes, Togo will appeal to those out there that are won over solely by dogs featuring alongside superb actors, swanning around in the snow in search of some meaning.