The Secret Life of Pets One of the most short-sighted corporate decisions I've ever witnessed was when Universal Orlando replaced its joyous, timeless Hanna-Barbera ride with a Jimmy Neutron attraction. As Mitch Hedberg would have said, "Jimmy Neutron? Yeah, I remember that ... day." Some franchises have legs and some just don't, so it's fortunate that Illumination Entertainment came along with its Despicable Me/Minions juggernaut, which I'll wager is going to be a much longer-lived occupier of that old Hanna-Barbera space than poor Jimmy was. And Universal seems to know it, having reportedly set aside even more room for an attraction based on Illumination's new The Secret Life of Pets.
Good call. Not only do they have Illumination's sterling track record to rely on, but also the new movie's can't-miss premise: The humans step aside momentarily so we can get an unvarnished portrait of what our fur babies do all day. Netflix and rut? No, silly: Stab each other in the back and then rue the consequences. You know, just like the Republican National Committee.
I guess we'll never know if Uni left some kibble on the table by opening the movie after the mammoth July 4th weekend – although given the staying power Finding Dory has exhibited, it might be just as well. Even wiser in retrospect was the decision to open Pets last weekend in the U.K., where is scored all kinds of 11th-hour EU dosh. British title of the inevitable sequel: Pets or Meat. (PG)
Swiss Army Man Buddy picture, meet body picture. In a pitch that puts the "high" in high concept, a castaway played by Paul Dano staves off his loneliness by sharing good times with a magical corpse (Daniel Radcliffe) that washes ashore at exactly the right time. Personally, I've always considered the original American Werewolf in London the high bar for banter between a living dude and his cadaverous pal, but I'm always open to a good paradigm shift. And so, it appears, are the festival audiences and critics who have pronounced Swiss Army Man one of the most engagingly goofy head-scratchers in many a moon.
A Rolling Stone cover story once declared that the original Guns 'N Roses could veer from terrible to brilliant in the course of a typical set – and sometimes during a single song. A similar herky-jerkiness is being attributed to Swiss Army Man by reviewers – as well as the ability to strike different members of the same audience as a unique work of genius and one of the worst pictures ever made. If you aren't enticed by the prospect of that sort of parking-lot debate, I don't know what to tell you, except maybe to dangle the carrot that the titular corpse is also gifted with propulsive flatulence. Hey, Discovery Channel: I think you just booked the first night of Shart Week. (R)