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Quickie Review: Dolittle

I often skip the “kids movies” since my nieces and nephews have aged out of them. But I will generally make an exception for animation, musicals and anything with Robert Downey Jr. Dolittle has the latter. After years of playing Iron Man, Sherlock Holmes, and other PG-13 and R-rated characters, Downey wanted to make something his younger kids could see. Thus, we have Dolittle – a sweet, harmless, sometimes goofy film reminiscent of the family-friendly comedy adventure films of my youth. It won’t displace the 1967 Rex Harrison version (with music!), or Eddie Murphy’s 1998 take on the classic tale; but for a new generation, this re-imagining of the doctor who can communicate with animals is superficially satisfactory. It’s got enough heart and animal shenanigans to entertain the kids and placate most of the adults in tow.

Sing

I’m a big fan of The Voice. I watched American Idol. I love musicals. The trailer for Sing looked awesome. And then I saw the movie. And I was bummed. The elements were all there for greatness (or at least very goodness), but it doesn’t come close to reaching its potential. In fact, I was bored for a big chunk of Sing, especially when the menagerie of animated pop-star wannabes weren’t singing. That’s not to say it won’t do (extremely) well at the box office. It will. It’s like The Secret Life of Pets (from the same studio, Universal Pictures/Illumination Entertainment). Pets wasn’t very good, but I’m convinced that kids and adults had psyched themselves up to like it – no matter what — based on the cute trailer and premise. The same will be true with Sing. Enough people will see it – and sing its praises – to put me in the minority. So go ahead. See it, and weigh in! I’m listening!

Mainstream Chick’s Quick Takes: The Secret Life of Pets; Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates; Life, Animated; Zero Days

The Secret Life of Pets is one of those movies that is probably critic-proof because the trailer is so darn cute and promising that kids (and many adults too) will be eager to see it, no matter what. Still, I would be remiss to give it a glowing endorsement when I was, in fact, disappointed. I loved the first 15 minutes and the last 10 minutes of this movie. But everything in between dragged for me as the tone of the movie turned rather dark. The premise is awesome — what kind of lives are our pets leading when we leave them home alone for hours at a time? They party! They get together for walks! They watch telenovellas! The characters (dogs, cats, bunnies, snakes, etc.) are all well-drawn, and well-voiced by the likes of Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart, Ellie Kemper, Lake Bell, Bobby Moynihan, Hannibal Buress, and Albert Brooks. My issue is with the shift in tone from fun animal adventure to animated crime saga. The Secret Life of Pets is certainly way better than recent duds Ratchet and Clank, Norm of the North, and Angry Birds… but not nearly as good as Finding Dory and Zootopia. Oh well. I may not have loved The Secret Life of Pets, but I do predict the movie will boost attendance at theaters, animal shelters, pet stores, and dog parks! There’s also a cute short before The SLOP that features the Minions of Despicable Me fame.

Zootopia

Zootopia is by far my favorite animated movie since Inside Out and a great choice for the whole family. It’s one of those Disney movies that throws a few bones to the older kids and adults in the audience without diluting its sweet and simple message about pursuing your dreams and not getting caught up in stereotypes.

We Bought a Zoo

It’s a good thing Matt Damon didn’t succumb to warnings about working with children and animals. Because without Matt Damon, We Bought a Zoo could have been really lame. Instead, it’s a heartwarming family film that manages to tackle some pretty big issues without getting too sappy or sad.

Damon plays Benjamin Mee, a young widower struggling to raise his two kids, Dylan, 14, and Rosie, 7, in the months following his wife’s death. Desperate for a change of scenery and a fresh start, Mee moves the family out of the city and into a fixer-upper in the country that happens to be situated in the middle of a zoo that also needs some major fixer-uppin’.