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Louis CK as Max the Dog fails to unseat Patton Oswalt as Remy the Rat

Opening this week: The Secret Life of Pets, Zero Days, and more

A dog may be man’s best friend, but is a dog’s best friend a (wo)man?
A dog may be man’s best friend, but is a dog’s best friend a (wo)man?
Movie

Secret Life of Pets *

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Fresh from releasing <em>Minions</em>, the #11 grossing movie of all time, and also its predecessor, <em>Despicable Me 2</em> (#28!), the good people at Illumination Entertainment have decided to see if they can spruce up the less-successful <em>Toy Story</em> franchise, substituting domesticated animals for children’s playthings and imagining what they get up to when their owners aren’t around. The result: great casting, design, and character conception; a plot that makes precious little use of any of that; decent humor; and an overreliance on wacky action at the expense of anything worth caring about. Affable terrier Max (Louis CK) gets the Woody role, convinced of his owner’s undying devotion and therefore mystified when an interloper shows up in the form of a big brown pound pooch named Buzz, er, Duke. Their rivalry gets them lost in New York City, which is a shame, because the pets back home are far more interesting than the angry gang of Flushed Pets our heroes wind up running with (and from). And while a Busby Berkeley number set in a sausage factory is good fun, too much of the film feels like hot dog filler: inoffensive but also insubstantial. Directed by Chris Renaud and Yarrow Cheney.

Find showtimes

I think it’s fair to say that the comedian Louis CK is squandered in The Secret Life of Pets, but the frustrating thing is, he’s not squandered right away. The opening holds such promise: a dog, convinced that his owner loves him as much as he loves her, oblivious to the life of his fellow dogs, staring at the apartment door and wondering where she goes every day. Why she doesn’t just stay with him? A scenario rich with possibility: our boy has so much to learn.

And then it turns into a not-as-good animal version of Toy Story. Oh well. There are some funny parts, and I loved the character design, especially of the cat and the girl dog who pines for Max. And it’ll make a ton of money. So.

I go back and forth on Zero Days, Alex Gibney’s latest: it’s a good story, worth telling and worth hearing. Does it justify its documentary format? Meaning, does it need to be a movie? Probably not.

Certaintly not the way, say, Cartel Land did. But movies are what Gibney makes, and he does mix up the bits from his various talking heads to create the impression of conversation, or at least narrative.

Poor Scott: there wasn’t much for him to chew on this week, and what there was, he spit out: zero stars for both Carnage Park and My Love, Don’t Cross That River.

I’m not sure anyone needs a critic to determine whether or not to see Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, but I could be wrong, because I didn’t see it myself. In fact, we missed a few this week: Searchers re-imagining Les Cowboys, Frank Zappa doc Eat That Question, gender meditation The Fits, and transgender meditation From This Day Forward. Technical difficulties. Back to it next week.

Cheers!

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A dog may be man’s best friend, but is a dog’s best friend a (wo)man?
A dog may be man’s best friend, but is a dog’s best friend a (wo)man?
Movie

Secret Life of Pets *

thumbnail

Fresh from releasing <em>Minions</em>, the #11 grossing movie of all time, and also its predecessor, <em>Despicable Me 2</em> (#28!), the good people at Illumination Entertainment have decided to see if they can spruce up the less-successful <em>Toy Story</em> franchise, substituting domesticated animals for children’s playthings and imagining what they get up to when their owners aren’t around. The result: great casting, design, and character conception; a plot that makes precious little use of any of that; decent humor; and an overreliance on wacky action at the expense of anything worth caring about. Affable terrier Max (Louis CK) gets the Woody role, convinced of his owner’s undying devotion and therefore mystified when an interloper shows up in the form of a big brown pound pooch named Buzz, er, Duke. Their rivalry gets them lost in New York City, which is a shame, because the pets back home are far more interesting than the angry gang of Flushed Pets our heroes wind up running with (and from). And while a Busby Berkeley number set in a sausage factory is good fun, too much of the film feels like hot dog filler: inoffensive but also insubstantial. Directed by Chris Renaud and Yarrow Cheney.

Find showtimes

I think it’s fair to say that the comedian Louis CK is squandered in The Secret Life of Pets, but the frustrating thing is, he’s not squandered right away. The opening holds such promise: a dog, convinced that his owner loves him as much as he loves her, oblivious to the life of his fellow dogs, staring at the apartment door and wondering where she goes every day. Why she doesn’t just stay with him? A scenario rich with possibility: our boy has so much to learn.

And then it turns into a not-as-good animal version of Toy Story. Oh well. There are some funny parts, and I loved the character design, especially of the cat and the girl dog who pines for Max. And it’ll make a ton of money. So.

I go back and forth on Zero Days, Alex Gibney’s latest: it’s a good story, worth telling and worth hearing. Does it justify its documentary format? Meaning, does it need to be a movie? Probably not.

Certaintly not the way, say, Cartel Land did. But movies are what Gibney makes, and he does mix up the bits from his various talking heads to create the impression of conversation, or at least narrative.

Poor Scott: there wasn’t much for him to chew on this week, and what there was, he spit out: zero stars for both Carnage Park and My Love, Don’t Cross That River.

I’m not sure anyone needs a critic to determine whether or not to see Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, but I could be wrong, because I didn’t see it myself. In fact, we missed a few this week: Searchers re-imagining Les Cowboys, Frank Zappa doc Eat That Question, gender meditation The Fits, and transgender meditation From This Day Forward. Technical difficulties. Back to it next week.

Cheers!

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