“Fans are fickle. You never know when taste might change. It’s a numbers game, and I’m going to play it,” says Bodi, the guitar-hero hound from the village of Snow Mountain. While Rock Dog 2 nominally denounces selling out, perhaps mindful of how the 2016 original – one of the most expensive Chinese-produced animations ever – bombed, it hectically plays the numbers game itself. Half modern entertainment-biz trawl, half nostalgic Asian rural fable, this messy sequel tries to cover both western and Chinese angles – and toss around enough scattershot energy to keep everyone happy.
Bodi’s power-pop trio True Blue are the hottest new act on the block, their music radiating cyan energy waves out to their following. But they have popped up on the radar of Lang, a music-impresario sheep with a fluffy pompadour and British Invasion accent, who has multiple agendas: not just to separate Bodi from his bandmates by teaming him up with starlet Lil’ Foxy, but to shut down Rock’n’Roll Park where the city’s diehard guitar warriors keep the flame burning. Meanwhile in Snow Mountain’s Tibet-style fastness, Bodi’s family are fretting about his sudden fame – though, making a killing selling keychains to True Blue-mad locals, possibly succumbing to the mania themselves.
Despite the throwback big-label svengali setup, Rock Dog 2 is a very digital-age chimera: all-over-the-place plot, liberal borrowings including a Zootopia-style anthropomorphised city, and fervid pop-culture references from Bill & Ted to the Rolling Stones. The production values seem to be downgraded from the first film: the animation is cheap and stiff, predominantly zooming in on static backdrops rather than featuring much true “camera” movement, and there’s no star voice cast this time. But younger viewers won’t care. While its generic celebrity-age satire doesn’t bother to root out the original story kernel Pixar would have demanded, it is worldly enough to intrigue pre-teens, and even drums up a certain demented energy for the finale.
• Rock Dog 2: Rock Around the Park is released on Sky Cinema and Now on 8 January.