dir-scr Finn Taylor
prd Susan Johnson
with Kate Micucci, Justin Chatwin, Steve Howey, Sean Astin, Hana Mae Lee, Illeana Douglas, Josh Brener, Mark Strano, John Terrell, Don Reed, Scott Coffey, Jeremy Kahn
release US 25.Aug.17
16/US 1h36
Catty and dogged: Chatwin and Howey

micucci astin douglas
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Unleashed There's not much to this gimmicky, goofy comedy, which plays on the affections people feel toward their pets. Writer-director Finn Taylor keeps the film cute and silly, dumbing down any hint of sexuality or character complexity for no real reason. This awkward approach is disarmingly absurd, corny and somewhat juvenile. But the movie has its moments.

Star-obsessed Emma (Micucci) has just been dumped by her boyfriend (Brener), so she she adopts a dog and cat and moves to San Francisco. There she meets the helpful nice guy Carl (Astin), who lives in a tiny house and helps her find a great apartment. Then on the night of a super-moon, her cat and dog are transformed into perfect boyfriend material: Diego and Sam (Chatwin and Howey). Lost in the streets, they find work to survive, Diego as a model and Sam as a personal trainer. And both try to woo Emma.

As Emma and Carl look for the pets, these fish-out-of-water men have a series of anthropomorphised adventures, depicted as a series of wacky montages. Diego preens on a catwalk, Sam binges on sugar and sniffs everyone's bums. There's even a corny dress-up sequence, plus pretty much every cat and dog gag imaginable. The plot itself unfolds in a ragtag way that has all kinds of possibilities, but Taylor never takes advantage of them, playing it safe and predictable. Subplots just vanish on every side. But San Francisco looks gorgeous.

Diego and Sam are written with all the standard cliches. Chatwin has a great time playing Diego's cat-like cynicism, while Howey hams up Sam's puppyish enthusiasm. There's nothing remotely subtle about either character, but their cartoonishness is amusing. Micucci is likeable enough at the centre, but her character feels far too slight to be the movie's protagonist. Astin is an easy romantic lead for her, never remotely threatened by his much hotter animalistic rivals. But the lack of chemistry means that Emma's most intriguing relationship is with Lee's mildly sassy work colleague.

There are some messages woven into the story (don't be afraid to be yourself), but they're as obvious as everything else about the plot, which never quite resolves itself properly. The main point seems to be to generate a few easy smiles, but Taylor apparently never decided whether he was making a family comedy or a more adult-oriented satire. So the film ends up as neither. It's simplistic and never remotely surprising or challenging. But it has a moderate charm that almost wins us over.

cert pg themes, language, innuendo 18.Aug.17

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