"Johanna Spyri's 'Heidi' is a children's classic; this all-dog live-action version of the beloved tale may well become a classic also, detailing with great humor and tenderness lessons of courage under adversity, the rewards of friendship, and the joy of reading. The characters in the story are perfectly cast as dogs in costumes...
The film employs a whimsical amalgamation of technologies. as the mountains look real and the homes appear cozy. An avuncular narrator reads transitions between scenes while book pages, featuring text and lovely pencil drawings, periodically flash on screen. Accompanying orchestral music is rousing and rich, a perfect complement to the tale...
Recommend this touching, funny film (you have to see it to believe it) to 'Heidi' fans, dog lovers, and anyone who appreciates creative filmmaking. Perfect family fare. Available as a Spanish-language version, as well."
"HEIDI 4 PAWS is an amazing adaptation of the story 'Heidi.' If you and your family love dogs, then this is a movie that everyone will enjoy. As it is stated in the synopsis the entire cast are portrayed by different breeds of dogs, right down to the goats that Peter the goat herder takes care of. The story of 'Heidi' will always be a classic no matter how or who the characters are portrayed by."
"Heidi 4 Paws ... is a reinvention of the classic story of the little Swiss orphan who touches the lives of all she meets. "Re-imagined" is probably more accurate than reinvention; this version casts live dogs in all its roles, right down to a "herd" of costumed Pomeranians playing the sheep. Aided by computer animation that makes the dogs' mouths move, the unconventional treatment of a familiar story will delight kids and adults thanks to its amusing script and never-ending sight-gags. Who's not going to laugh at a yodeling dog wearing lederhosen, right?! Inventive camera work and skillful editing wring the most human emotion out of every dog's movement; the scenery is rich and interesting; the storyline never gets lost in the gimmick; and, well. . . costumed dogs are just silly. Promotional material says this program is aimed at kids aged four to ten but if furry paws came with opposable digits, this particular production just might get a thumbs-up from the whole family. And rest assured; no animals were harmed during the productions."
"'Heidi 4 Paws ...' could take its place among treasured fairy tales for this unique version of Heidi. Performed by animals actors in a magical tail of wonder, it holds us captive, as all furry tales do. What makes 'Heidi 4 Paws' special is the brilliant performances of the dogs, which are mesmerizing, and the message the story holds... This wonderful DVD is magnificent in every way. All ages will be mesmerized by the performances of one of our most beloved pets."
"Heidi 4 Paws...contains many good lessons... Heidi has trouble learning from the Sesehound family’s pretentious tutors, but Grandmama has faith in Heidi and recognizes that not everyone learns the same way. Even though Peter destroys Clara’s wheelchair, he learns his lesson and tells Heidi the truth. The overarching theme of the story is Heidi’s personality; the love and compassion she exhibits toward everyone and everything around her has a positive impact. Because of the good values it presents and its charming and humorous retelling of a timeless, classic story, the Parents Television Council is proud to award Heidi 4 Paws with the PTC Seal of ApprovalTM."
"HEIDI 4 PAWS ...is sure to delight family members of all ages as it re-tells the classic children's story of Heidi featuring adorable dogs in all the roles! ...Now, in the tradition of 'Wishbone,' 'Babe' and 'Charlotte's Web,'audiences can enjoy a new version of this timeless masterpiece! An impressive list of well-known actors lend their voices to characters."
"Coalition for Quality Children's Media announces that HEIDI 4 PAWS ... has been selected to be included in the second quarter 2009 KIDS FIRST! Film Festival running in children's museums and community centers nationwide."
Front page of the "Calendar" section, Los Angeles Times: http://www.calendarlive.com/tv/reviews/cl-et-heidi20-2008dec20,0,4125151.story
Let's pause to reflect on the effect of dressed-up dogs retelling the beloved orphan-in-the-Alps tale.
By MARY McNAMARA, Television Critic
There is nothing in this life to prepare a person to review “Heidi 4 Paws,” which premieres on KCET Sunday morning.
When my editor handed it to me with a gleam in her eye, she said: "It's Heidi. With dogs." I was confused. Did Heidi Klum have a new reality show involving dogs? Had Heidi Montag snagged a canine Christmas special?
"No, it's the story 'Heidi.' With dogs."
I began to feel bovine in my incomprehension. "Heidi" with dogs instead of goats?
"No, the dogs play all the characters."
Including, it must be added, the goats.
And there it is. "Heidi 4 Paws" is a live-action retelling of Johanna Spyri’s classic tale of an orphan sent to live with her cantankerous grandfather high in the Swiss Alps -- with dogs in all the roles. Dogs in kerchiefs and Swiss frocks, dogs in alpine hats and canine approximations of lederhosen, dogs in wigs and spectacles and, yes, little Clara's wheelchair.
Having said that, we can now watch as the world instantly divides. Into those who find dogs in dress-up charming and adorable and those who consider it a crime against the natural order of things. If you are a member of the former group, then this is the film for you. The costumes are exquisite, the dogs wear them well.
Some of us, however, fall into the latter category. I have nothing against live-action animal films -- I think "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" cleaned up at the box office simply because it was a darn good movie -- but I believe the only person who should put clothing on dogs is William Wegman, and then not always.
It's a difficult prejudice to put aside in this case, especially since the poor mutt playing Miss Rottenmeier is forced to wear shoes -- shoes! -- but it is a prejudice not shared by everyone, and so we move on.
"Heidi 4 Paws" is the dreamchild of successful screenwriter Holly Goldberg Sloan ("Angels in the Outfield," "Made in America"), which explains the name talent, including Angela Lansbury, Steve Guttenberg and Julian Sands, who provide some of the voices. Sloan, as she recently blogged on the Huffington Post, spent the last five years melding her twin obsessions with dogs and "Heidi."
This answers the first wild-eyed question that springs to mind when "Heidi 4 Paws" opens with three dogs on a train. Why on Earth would anyone think to do this? Not, apparently, to create an instant camp classic, although this may be the end result, but because she wanted to make a children's film incorporating her twin obsessions with dogs and "Heidi." Next question.
And there are many more, including why do Detie (Joanne Baron) and Grandpapa (Richard Kind) sound like they are from Long Island and Brooklyn, respectively? Was it really necessary to have the doggy versions of Peter the Goatherder (Sands) and Heidi (Meghan Strange) yodel? How come the "goats" look like little Martians, and will plush versions of them be available in time for Christmas? What is it about Angela Lansbury's voice that makes even a dog in a Grandmama wig seem comforting and wise?
There are things to recommend "Heidi 4 Paws" (honestly, I cannot write this title often enough) beyond the obvious you-have-to-see-it-to-believe-it appeal.
On Huffington, Sloan apologizes for the "homemade" appearance of the dogs' moving mouths, but the special effects, though not up to feature film standards, are pretty good. Though clearly not filmed on location, the production value all around is high.
Sloan's script, meanwhile, is very smart, a faithful retelling of the "Heidi" tale down to the devotion to goat's milk and cheese, yet with enough snappy modern flourishes to temper the saccharine tone of the original and keep young audiences watching. "Why do you have nothing?" asks the Grandpapa when Heidi arrives on his doorstep. "Maybe because I'm an orphan?" she answers. It's a great line, and the yellow lab puppy playing Heidi really nails it.
Still there is a definite homespun quality to "Heidi 4 Paws," a let's-put-on-a-show jocularity to much of the dialogue and its delivery, which is both charming and slightly off-putting, as if the viewer had just opened the wrong door at a party and found the talented but undeniably eccentric sister sitting on the floor playing dress-up with her dogs.
You see how difficult this is to explain. Best watch it for yourself. I guarantee you've never seen anything like it on television. And these days, that's saying something.