For my first post, I want to talk about All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989). In this film, Charlie (Burt Reynolds) is the main character and, I argue, an unreliable narrator. Especially after he dies, Charlie is the one in almost every scene and therefore can be seen as the narrator. I argue he is unreliable because he is a con-artist.
After Charlie dies and rewinds his watch, he comes back to what he thinks is the real world. However, this world seems to hold more problems and conflicts for Charlie. Carface (Vic Tayback) is thriving with the club and it drives Charlie crazy. He wants success and revenge over Carface.
After discovering Anne-Marie (Judith Barsi), Charlie only sees dollar signs, literally. He uses her to his own ends. Charlie takes her to the horse, frog, and turtle races as well as kangaroo boxing so he can earn a lot of money to get back at Carface by opening his own club.
Charlie goes through repeated motions to improve his own life and attempt to help others. When trying to help the needed, he buys Anne-Marie new outfits and takes pizza to a “poor” family of dogs. He appears to be going through similar situations over and over, like in purgatory.
Even Carface tries to kill Charlie, he survives because his watch is safe, or maybe because he is in purgatory. He faces danger but always seems to survive. Even with the alligator, he is about to be eaten, but his voice saves him.
The reason Charlie comes out of this repetitive purgatory is because he save Anne-Marie over himself in the end. Instead of working towards his own goals, like an anti-hero, he saves the girl and breaks the cycle. He shows remorse and regret in the end, making him a good dog and gaining him re-entry into Dog Heaven.
There are scenes after Charlie came back to life where he is not present, supposedly showing he is not the true narrator. However, I would argue these scenes are in his imagination. He is seeing them so it is up to us as the audience to decide if we trust and believe what he sees. This is similar to his dreams of hell; are these real or simply his delusion?
I argue a part of Charlie did die in the beginning and he has to live in purgatory to prove he deserves heaven, even if it is to himself. He defies the repetition of purgatory to save Anne-Marie and go to heaven.
Some think of this film as an allegory for spiritual purity.
I’m not saying there aren’t many disturbing traits to this film, but if you found it a little too weird, you are not alone.
Thanks for reading! See you next week for two more posts!