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Film Review by Diane McCurdy: Nine Lives and The Secret Life of Pets


Nine Lives and The Secret Life of Pets

by Diane McCurdy

Winter break is coming, the weather could turn bleak and the kiddies may become housebound and restless. Two newly released DVD’s with youngsters as the target audience but intelligent enough for adults may be a saving grace for parents’ nerves.

The first is Nine Lives starring Oscar winner Kevin Spacey as a workaholic millionaire. His ambition is to construct the tallest building in Manhattan. He has severely neglected his beautiful second wife, Jennifer Garner, and their eleven year old daughter. Having forgotten the little girl’s birthday, at the last minute he rushes to a pet store to buy her a cat. Because the store is owned by Christopher Walken, always creepy and always wonderful, he somehow becomes trapped in the body of the cat, Mr. Fuzzypants. The only way he can reverse his fate is to realize the importance of his family and reconnect with them. The film has an A-list cast and director but it was universally panned by critics as too cutesy and too formulaic. Those comments are valid but it also has a certain irresistible , whimsical charm.

Americans seem to have a fascination with car chases. They occur so frequently in films. One would think that an animated film about what pets do all day when their masters are away would be devoid of this phenomenon but in The Secret Life of Pets there is a car chase. The story revolves around protagonist, Max, a big, floppy dog who is voiced by comedian Louis C.K. There is irony here as he is known for his very risque routines and this is a family film. Another comedian, Kevin Hart, assumes the persona of an aggressive bunny. Complications begin when a new dog is introduced into the household. Adventurous capers ensue. The cast includes a dachshund, a cat, a guinea pig, some birds, a lizard and even some humans. Sometimes the plot is too busy. There are no profound life lesson to be learned here just relax and giggle. 

These two PG-rated films are gentle and amusing. If parents don’t want to view the movies themselves they can at least park the kids in front of the TV thereby giving mom and dad a few hours of respite during this busy holiday season.