Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Secret Life of Pets

Year 9, Day 196 - 7/15/17 - Movie #2,690

BEFORE: I went through my October horror films line-up, to figure out which films will make the cut this year - I've got about 30, but that's too many since I'll need to take a break for New York Comic-Con, and I want to keep more slots open in case I need to add some linking material to make my November/December chain.  Next step - go through the planned November/December movies to try and figure out how much linking material I might need to add.  After that I can get a better idea how many slots there will be to fill in September - right now my chain should last until August 19 before it dead-ends, but maybe with some fill-in material I can get that chain to stretch into September. Either way, I'm close to having a solid plan for the rest of the year that will also allow me to go out and see the new "Blade Runner" film, plus "Justice League", "Thor: Ragnarok" and of course "Star Wars: The Last Jedi", because those are the priorities.

Albert Brooks carries over from "The Little Prince", and he'll be here tomorrow as well - nothing but animated films until I leave for San Diego on Wednesday, so that's like clear sailing.

THE PLOT: The quite life of a terrier named Max is upended when his owner takes in Duke, a stray whom Max instantly dislikes.

AFTER: I'm back in the "city full of diverse animals" genre, as seen in "Zootopia" and "Sing".  But the animals' positions here are closer to reality, where they're subservient to humans in a real city (NYC).  They do talk to each other, but the humans can't understand their language, it comes out as barks and meows to human ears - creating a situation like the one seen in "Toy Story", where there are two overlapping interpretations of what's going on, or where actions seen through one set of characters' eyes aren't properly seen or understood by people.

The voice-casting is pretty great here, especially in the choice of Louis C.K. to be the "everydog" main character.  His voice has a regular-guy feel, with just enough sarcasm and notes of complaint to be the put-upon dog who has to share his space and owner's affection with a new dog roommate.  And the start of the story is common enough, with two pets getting used to sharing space - we just finished getting two cats to share space without killing each other, the socialization process for us took about a year.  (That was nine months with the new cat in the basement, then three months of supervised interaction before the fighting was under control.).

But there are problems with the narrative here, which essentially turns into just one long chase scene after the character introductions are made (and there are a lot of those).  We know that the two dogs are going to become friends after they endure hardship together, making their way back to their home, but did that have to involve escaping from the Animal Control truck three times?  It might have been better if they faced a lot of different challenges together, rather than the same challenge over and over.

Some of the animal characters live in the sewers, forming an alliance of "Flushed Pets" - so there was perhaps an opportunity here to have a teachable moment, maybe a call to action to get people to stop discarding pets?  Isn't there a problem where whichever animals get featured in a popular children's movie, there's a wave of interest in adopting that specific breed, and then the majority of people find out they're really not cut out to be pet owners, and then they discard those pets?  Like there was a huge run on Dalmatian puppies after "101 Dalmatians", but the interest waned quickly when people found out how much work it is to take care of a dog.  I can only imagine the rush to own Jack Russell terriers and Pomeranians after this film hit.

As sensitive as I am to this issue, and the plight of discarded pets, the stories of some of the "flushed pets" here didn't make much sense.  First off, one was an alligator, and I thought we dispelled those "alligators in the sewers" urban legends years ago.  But let's take the tattooed pig here - he says that tattoo artists practiced on him until his skin was filled up, and then they discarded him.  Where to start with the NITPICK POINTS?  You can't really flush a pig, or any animal besides a fish, really, and have it survive in the sewers after.  And it wouldn't make sense for a tattoo artist to practice on a live pig, because it would squirm around in pain, so assuming this is even a thing, with a pig's body standing in for human skin, then they would practice on a dead pig, because then it would be still.  And even if the workers in a tattoo shop were practicing on a live pig, when they were done they probably wouldn't discard the pig, they'd take it to a butcher and get some ham and pork chops out of the deal.  (Sorry, kids, but I'm keeping it real.)

But it seems like this film made a ton of money, so the sequel is due out in two years.  And as long as they keep making animated films like this, kids will keep going to see them - but unfortunately that means they'll keep wanting pets that they can't care for.  But I guess that's how the whole durned human comedy keeps perpetuatin' itself, down through the generations....

Also starring the voices of Louis C.K. (last seen in "The Angriest Man in Brooklyn"), Eric Stonestreet (last seen in "The Island"), Kevin Hart (last seen in "Get Hard"), Jenny Slate (last heard in "The Lego Batman Movie"), Ellie Kemper (ditto), Lake Bell (last seen in "What Happens in Vegas"), Dana Carvey (last heard in "Hotel Transylvania 2"), Hannibal Buress (last seen in "Spider-Man: Homecoming"), Bobby Moynihan (last seen in "Ted 2"), Steve Coogan (last heard in "Ella Enchanted"), Chris Renaud, Michael Beattie, Sandra Echeverria, Jaime Camil.

RATING: 5 out of 10 fire escapes

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