Review in brief: 'My Dog Tulip,' 'Ahead of Time'

  • Updated: November 18, 2010 - 5:03 PM

Christopher Plummer voices an old loner in 'Tulip.'

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A fussbudget bachelor and his best friend in “My Dog Tulip.”

Photo: New Yorker Films

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MY DOG TULIP

★★ 1/2 OUT OF FOUR STARS

Unrated; Cartoon nudity, canine sex and bodily functions.

Where: Edina.

Here's a boy-and-his-dog story featuring a very old boy. Fussbudget bachelor J.R. Ackerley, an editor of BBC publications, confesses that his lifelong search for an Ideal Friend resulted in disappointment. "There was always a flaw. Too outgoing. Too shy. Too insecure. Too independent." In late middle age, when his dog, an "Alsatian bitch" named Tulip, came into his life, he found the uncritical love and companionship he sought.

Tulip is incorrigible -- a whirlwind of nerves and barks and nipping teeth -- yet Ackerley adores her every misdemeanor. This animated film, illustrated in Thurberish doodles, is a chronicle of a heart that never worked emotionally warming to canine affection.

Christopher Plummer voices the dyspeptic old loner with droll humor, doting on Tulip's urinary habits and bowel movements in raunchy detail. Ackerley recounts his efforts to find his pet a mate with the same frank, unromantic realism he focuses on human relationships. "The 15 years she lived with me were the happiest of my life," Ackerley says. Dog owners will know just what he means, but coming from such a lonely specimen, the admission is quietly devastating.

COLIN COVERT

AHEAD OF TIME

★★★ OUT OF FOUR STARS

Unrated.

Where: St. Anthony Main. Fri.-Sun.

Pioneering journalist Ruth Gruber was born in a Jewish New York neighborhood in 1911. By age 20, she had earned a doctorate. At 24, she was an arctic explorer, writing about women under fascism. By her 30s, Gruber's stories about the Middle East helped advocate the creation of an Israeli state.

The documentary "Ahead of Time" chronicles Gruber's proto-feminist accomplishments. Now 99, she's still a firecracker.

Mixing interviews with archival footage, director Bob Richman delivers an elegant portrait of a woman who never stopped making history. In 1944, she was secretly tasked by President Franklin Roosevelt to accompany 1,000 Holocaust survivors to New York. In 1946, she was in British-controlled Palestine documenting the plight of Exodus 147, a Jewish refugee ship attacked by the British navy.

It's a great documentary, flawed only by its hesitation to stir the pot. "Ahead of Time" does capture Gruber in an interview with Israeli historian Tom Segev, who asks if her compassion for refugees also applies to Palestinians. Unfortunately, these scenes are cut short.

Still, the film packs a staggering amount of Gruber's life into 75 minutes.

TOM HORGEN

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