Russell Madness tells the story of Russell, an undersized but big-hearted terrier who dreams of having a family of his own. After running away from his current pet store residence, Russell gets taken in by The Ferraros, a family desperate to revive their grandfather's pro wrestling arena. That's when they discover their new pet pooch has incredible wrestling skills. With help from his coach, Hunk, a savvy and hilarious monkey, Russell rockets to the top of the pro wrestling world and becomes a famous sports superstar. But when a dishonest promoter double-crosses the Ferraros, Russell will face his biggest challenge and discover that the strongest tag team is family. Russell Madness is rated 'PG' by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).
'Russell Madness' is hands down the BEST movie I've ever seen that features a talking wrestling dog and a talking monkey for a wrestling manager. Not only that, this film has Will Sasso, John Ratzenberger, and Fred Willard lending their talents to the film. Not all is lost. Remember that film from 1997 called 'Air Bud', about a golden retriever dog who could play basketball and win championships?
Well the same people who made that, made 'Russell Madness', which comes to no surprise as the first 'Air Bud' film made almost $30 million on a $3 million budget. Not only that, since 1997, the 'Air Bud' people have made dozens of sequels featuring talking animals that play sports and win big. Heck, they even opened their own studio to make these types of films, most of which are direct-to-video. One thing is for sure with each of these films is that this studio knows the formula that works, and that formula is geared to kids under eight years old.
Yes, 'Russell Madness' is about a talking dog who wrestles WWE style and has a talking monkey named Hunk (Sasso) for a manager. But let's start at the beginning shall we? The dog in question is named Russell and is in fact a russell terrier breed who now lives in a pet store. I guess the creative people at the pet store were gone that day when a russell terrier was named...Russell. Nobody wants to take Russell home, because he literally pees on each kid that holds him, which is symbolic here as this movie might just be urinating in our face too.
The big bad pet store leaves Russell in a glass cage of emotions with no food or water, but luckily he escapes and runs for some sausage. (I'm not kidding.) He then, is chased by a bigger dog who chases him into a wrestling ring where Russell lays the SMACKDOWN on a giant human wrestler. For all I know, Russell killed the guy, because we never see that wrestler again. Soon enough, the Ferraro family sees Russell on the street and take him in as their own. The Ferraro family is dealing with the death of their grandfather, who was once a pro-wrestler who worked with a monkey and owned a wrestling arena before his death. He passed the arena down to his family on a the condition that they take one year to try and make a profit, promoting wrestling shows. If not, the family can flip it and sell it.
This is where monkey meets dog and the odd partnership is born. We have training montages with a monkey riding a segway and forcing poor Russell to pay him with nothing but bananas. There is even a road trip sequence with the father, the monkey, and the dog where the monkey says, "What happens on the road, stays on the road." I laughed so hard, I cried thinking about what these three did while on the road, promoting wrestling shows. John Ratzenberger plays the Vince McMahon role here and might have something sinister up his sleeve, while Fred Willard plays his usual wrestling announcer/commentator role.
None of it makes any sense really, then again, all of it makes total sense. 'Russell Madness' never really has a whole lot of suspense, nor does the dialogue pass over the cheese mountain, but kids will sure enjoy this movie. And if you're a parent who loves to see your kid laugh and smile, and are able to make light of a fairly terrible film, then this movie is for you, as it's definitely the BEST movie you'll ever see with a talking dog and monkey who love to give 'Stone Cold Stunners' to everyone who come in their path.
'Russell Madness' comes with a great 1080p HD transfer and is presented in 1.78:1 aspect ratio. This is a direct-to-video low budget film with talking animals, so don't expect a $100 million video presentation here. The overall look of the image is somewhat flat with moments of clarity. The detail is mostly sharp and vivid throughout, particularly in the close-ups of the human actors, which reveal great facial features and fine textures in the clothing. However, close-ups with the talking animals tend to go soft, due to the heavier CG effects. It's nothing a small child will notice though.
Colors are bright and well-balanced and always seem natural, although the colors tend to look a bit brighter than normal. This is not a video encode issue, but rather the choice of the filmmakers to engage the younger audience more here. Black levels are deep and inky and the skin tones are natural. There are no issues with banding, aliasing, or video noise that I noticed, which was a treat, making this a great video presentation, despite some of the softness in the CG shots.
This release comes with a decent lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix and gets the job done for a film of this caliber. For the most part, this is a front heavy audio mix, which never really immerses you fully into the moment. That being said, the surround speakers kick into high gear during the big wrestling sequences, with cheers from the crowd, and the usual wrestling sound effects and ambient noises.
They pack a decent punch or grapple and should satisfy. Other than that, most of the action is on the front speakers and sounds rather flat. Dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to follow, and free of any pops, cracks, hiss, and high shrills. The score is cartoony, but should entertain the younger audience, as it never drowns out the well-balanced dialogue or sound effects. There is a small amount of bass during the bigger wrestling sequences, but that's it, leaving this audio presentation with okay marks.
Raising the Woof: Training Russell (HD, 5 Mins.) - The kids should enjoy this extra as the cast and crew pretend Russell is a real wrestler and talk about him training for the ring. Then it transitions into how the dog trainers trained the dog to act on a realistic level.
Five Little Monkeys Sing-Along (HD, 2 Mins.) - You can Karaoke to 'Five Little Monkeys'.
Outtakes (HD, 3 Mins.) - A mix of real and parody outtakes with the animals and humans.
'Russell Madness' is a movie definitely for the kids and is part of that whole 'Air Bud' franchise of films. As far as quality goes, this movie is just about as bad as it gets. That being said, have an open mind and you might just enjoy watching your kids watch this movie, or at least have fun making jokes during it. The video and audio presentations are both solid and the extras are worth watching, particularly if you're young at heart. You really can't go wrong with a monkey, a dog, and wrestling movies. Recommended!