Plot: As not all humans embrace the presence of animals, a small group of friends travel together, for protection and companionship. Jericho and Ulysses are dogs, Petra is a hedgehog, and Miguel is a chameleon, so perhaps an odd ensemble, but the animals have built a strong bond. On the road, the group comes upon a small puppy and a decision is made to return the dog to its home. Of course, Jericho is against the idea, as that means a trip to Jerusalem and he has had bad experiences there. The dislike of animals runs higher than normal there and while Jericho resists, soon the group is headed there to reunite the puppy with its family. Once in town, the animals make a new friend Maya, but also have to evade a notorious local who despises dogs, which has Jericho on edge the entire time. But Jericho does start to trust a human for the first time in a long time, when he meets a friendly man named Jesus.
Entertainment Value: This animated feature does indeed feature Jesus Christ in a prominent role, but At Jesus’ Side is more about the group of animal friends, who happen to be, well…at his side at times. In essence, the movie offers a look at the final days of Jesus from the perspective of a street dog he befriends. This allows us to be taken inside some of the events from Jesus’ life, but also have a main narrative that can leave that path when needed. I do think the movie extols the values Christian viewers will appreciate, but if you’re here just for the Jesus moments, you might let down, as he isn’t around all that much. His appearances are in pivotal moments and he does impact the animals’ narrative, but the animals are just passing through, rather than enmeshed into Jesus’ life at this time. But I still think this will appeal to those looking for faith driven, family friendly content for younger viewers, even if At Jesus’ Side lacks the depth and polish of theatrical level animated features.
The animation in this one looks fine, but when stacked up against Disney, Pixar, or Dreamworks, isn’t going to hold. But the cartoon style looks good and I think it has some interesting character designs, so while not as slick or detailed, the animation is passable and in this case, that’s enough. The visuals are bright and colorful, with a kind of cartoon style that allows the animals to be cute and fun to watch. I also just think a change of pace from computer generation animation is nice sometimes, so from that respect, the animation fills that role well. The voice acting is once again fine, but no real star power and no one stands out as overly memorable. Roma Downey and Lucas Grabeel are given top billing in At Jesus’ Side, both in capable performances, but neither does much beyond the basics of the material. I’m surprised no one jumped up to steal the show here, instead giving competent, but forgettable performances. The cast also includes Kirby Morrow, Mark Gibbon, and David Kaye.
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