In Europe, the comic-strip adventures of a boy named Boule and his cocker spaniel, Bill, created by Belgian artist Jean Roba, have been beloved for over half a century, but this French-language, live-action movie version offers few clues to the duo’s lasting appeal.
Set in 1976, the film (whose title has been tweaked for the U.S. market) begins with Bill (voiced by Manu Payet) offering wry commentary on the odd array of humans stepping before his cage at the dog shelter. “He looks sweet,” Bill thinks when he sees eight-year-old Boule (Charles Crombez).
Moments later, Boule is being propelled at top speed on his skateboard by a newly adopted, wildly excited Bill. Despite a few manic comic episodes, writer-directors Alexandre Charlot and Franck Magnier never again capture the sense of joyous connection that can exist between child and pet.
Instead, they overemphasize the tension between Boule’s bickering, unhappy parents, and worse, oversexualize the mad crush the family’s pet turtle, Caroline (voiced by Sara Giraudeau), has on the dog.
Near the end, the filmmakers do find a clever way to incorporate Roba’s original Boule et Bill art into the plot, yet any one of those classic doodles has more vibrancy than this unappealing adaptation.