Intended for children as well as their parents, Fluke, the dramatic tale of a dog who was once a man, is strange family fare, a non-formulaic pic that tries to blend the expected magic of animal adventures with more serious ideas.
Italian Carlo Carlei makes his U.S. directorial debut with a film that is stylistically excessive, flaunting his facility with the camera at the expense of simpler, more coherent storytelling, as befits children’s films.
Tale begins with a disastrous car race between Thomas Johnson (Matthew Modine) and Jeff Newman (Eric Stoltz), close friends and business partners, that ends with a fatal accident, after which Thomas wakes up as a dog.
Pic’s first part, which is almost devoid of dialogue, details the travails of Fluke the puppy as he’s separated from his family and mistreated in various ways by humans, until he’s adopted by a homeless woman. When she dies, Fluke befriends Rumbo (voice provided by Samuel L. Jackson), a street-smart dog who serves as his mentor, teaching him the ropes of the canine world.
Pic changes gears (for the better) once Rumbo is brutally shot and Fluke, still haunted by vague memories of his former life with his attractive wife (Nancy Travis) and sensitive son (Max Pomeranc), decides to find his family and go home. Through brief flashbacks, which might prove too confusing for young kids, saga reconstructs Fluke’s conflict with his partner.