Since dogs are supposedly just naturally good, when they die they all go to heaven. Ironically, most of the dogs in this film are criminals, and not even particularly good natured ones at that.
So, Charles B Barkin gets bumped off by the notorious Carface Malone and goes to heaven. But once there, he steals a watch that returns life to him as long as the watch keeps ticking. Also, since he left heaven, now if Charlie dies, he will be the one and only pup in doggie hell (maybe a better title would be "All Dogs Go to Heaven... Unless Banished to Hell for Misdeeds"). Once Charlie returns to Earth, he immediately begins plotting revenge. He steals away Carface's secret to gambling success - a little orphan girl that can talk to animals and thereby lets Carface know who will win the "rat-races." This little girl named Anne-Marie, modeled after the animated Snow White, it tricked into helping Charlie win at the races with promises that the money will help the poor. But when Anne-Marie gets recaptured by Carface, what will Charlie do?
All Dogs Go to Heaven was another product of our good friend Don Bluth who left Disney in the early 80's to try and bring back magic to animation. His first film, The Secret of NIMH was a masterpiece, but then Bluth's films started to slide. The Land Before Time, An American Tail, and All Dogs Go to Heaven are all decent films with redeemable parts, but then Bluth bottomed out with films like Thumbelina, A Troll in Central Park, and Rock-a-Doodle. He finally got his mojo back with Anastasia and Titan A.E., but sadly he would never match the greatness of NIMH.
So, how does All Dogs rank? It's OK. It has some decent tunes that are wedged into the film without really advancing the story, and it has pretty standard Bluth Animation... which is better than average. The character of Charlie isn't very likable and the story is not too compelling, so overall the film is pretty forgettable, but at least it doesn't have anything in it too annoying or terrible. The movie was successful enough to spawn a sequel (which many regard as superior), a TV series, and a Christmas Special though without Bluth. And while that may like a lot of milk for a so-so film, remember that The Land Before Time was milked for like 12 sequels, so by comparison... not so impressive.
In 1989 the film earned $27 million bones, and would have likely done much better if it hadn't opened the same day as The Little Mermaid, the Disney film that ushered in the Disney renaissance. In all, Dogs is so-so for Don Bluth and so-so for animated films. At least it has a bit of a dark edge to it distinguishing it from the typical kid and dog movies. And, I do prefer it to Oliver & Company, a similar film that preceded Dogs by a year but had an unlikeable human rather than an unlikeable dog as the hero. This pack of pups runs away with its tail 'tween its legs and a C+.
All Dogs Go to Heaven & All Dogs Go to Heaven 2