Tag Archives: Hannibal Burress

Go! Sit! Stay!

Manhattan menagerie has wild adventure in fetching family flick

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The Secret Life of Pets
Starring the voices of Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, Lake Bell, Kevin Hart & Jenny Slate
Directed by Chris Renauld & Yarrow Cheney
PG

Like Toy Story did with playthings, this wildly imaginative animated family flick—from the makers of Despicable Me and Minions—starts with a very simple premise: What do our domesticated animals do when we’re away?

Quite a lot, it turns out!

In a Manhattan high-rise, we’re quickly introduced to Max, a well-groomed Jack Russell terrier (voiced by Louis C.K.); Chloe, the tubby tabby cat next door (Lake Bell); and Gidget (Jenny Slate), a prissy puffball of a Pomeranian down the street who has a crush on Max.

Max’s walking buddies include Buddy, a slinky dachshund (Hannibal Burress), and Mel, a squirrel-obsessed pug (Bobby Moynihan).

Things are sailing along fine for Max until his owner brings home a second pet, a big, slobbery, rescue-dog mongrel named Duke (Eric Stonestreet). Max and Duke don’t get along, and soon they’re in a real doggie dilemma, rounded up by Animal Rescue without their collars or tags—and about to begin an even bigger, wilder adventure.

2426_SMX_DS_S1230P0220_L_COMPO_RENDER_0127RThis involves even more colorful characters, including a Snowball, a gonzo white rabbit (Kevin Hart), leader of an underground activist group called the Flushed Pets—animals who’ve been “thrown away by our owners; now we’re out for revenge!” There’s Tiberius, a rooftop hawk (Albert Brooks) comically torn between his longing for companionship and hard-wired predatory instincts. Pops (Dana Carvey), an elderly basset hound, may be paralyzed in his back legs—but he sure knows how to get around town!

Director Chris Renauld, whose resume includes the Despicable Me franchise and The Lorax, and co-director Yarrow Cheney, a former production designer and animator, keep the jokes flying fast and funny and the plot moving at a brisk, lively trot as Max and Duke try to make their way home. Things get especially hairy when Snowball’s subterranean army—a motley crew of critters, from alligators, turtles and snakes to cats, a tattooed pig and “Sea Monkeys”—turns against them when they find out they’re really “domesticated” and not truly “liberated.”

2426_TP4_00079ARThere’s a chaotic traffic-jam cliffhanger on a New York City bridge, with a bus driven by a Max and Snowball (“You drive like an animal!”). In one dream sequence, hot dogs dance to “We Go Together,” the “rama lama lama ding dong” song from Grease. A poodle rocks out to heavy metal the second his owner is out the door. One tiny pooch, with a camera atop his head, films funny cat videos and uploads then to a Times Square jumbotron.

It’s all great, clever, whimsical fun, with a heartwarming, cuddly overlay of friendship and “family.” You may not (or may!) have a dog or cat as adventurous as Max, Duke, Gidget, Chloe, Buddy and Mel, but just about anyone can relate to the montage at the end of the movie—when all the pets exuberantly welcome their owners home to the tune of Al Green’s “Lovely Day.”

Any pet owner knows, and it’s no secret: That display of loyalty, love and affection from a pet—no matter where they’ve been or what they’ve done—makes it a positively lovely day, indeed.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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Dueling Dads

Ferrell & Wahlberg star in high-spirited co-parenting comedy

Daddy’s Home

Starring Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg & Linda Cardellini

Directed by Sean Anders

PG-13

 

“What do families need more—fathers or a dad?”

That’s the question posed at the beginning of Daddy’s Home by Brad (Will Ferrell), who wants more than anything else to be a dad—because he can’t become a father, at least biologically. Since an unfortunate snafu in a dental office years ago rendered him sterile, stepdad Brad is working hard to become part of the household—and the world—of Sarah (Linda Cardellini) and her two young children.

It’s not easy. And it certainly gets harder when the kids’ real father, Dusty (Mark Wahlberg), shows up—and sets up the “good, old-fashioned dad-off” hijinks of this high-spirited holiday comedy.

Motorcycle-riding Dusty is scuffed boots, big belt buckles, bulging biceps and AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck.” Minivan-driving Brad is button-down blue Oxfords, neckties and the smooth jazz of the middle-of-the-road radio station at which he’s a mild-mannered middle exec.

Her ex is “crazy and wild: like Jesse James and Mick Jagger had a baby,” offers Sarah. Ever-optimistic Brad is unfazed—at first. “He sounds like a rascal,” he says. “But I don’t think he’s anything I can’t handle.”

That’s before Dusty takes over Brad’s home-improvement projects, his home and even his job, triggering all sorts of comedic shenanigans—dueling bedtime stories, a gonzo backyard tree-house, a visit from “Santa” in April, a fertility-clinic fiasco and a wild motorcycle ride that turns Brad into a wall-piercing projectile.

Ferrell and Wahlberg, who worked together previously in the shoot-’em-up cop comedy The Other Guys (2010), are two very funny guys. It’s nice to see them both back in a PG-13 setting, especially after Wahlberg’s raunchy excursions with his furry, foul-mouthed teddy-bear friend in Ted and Ted 2, and Ferrell’s crude 2015 prison-comedy flop with Kevin Hart, Get Hard.

And it’s good to see them in something this funny. Much credit goes to director Sean (Horrible Bosses 2) Anders and his tight, bright screenplay collaboration with Brian Burns and John Morris, which keeps the laughs coming and works many gags for “overtime” payoff later. Anders also knows how to guide his supporting players—Thomas Hayden Church, Bobby Cannavale and Hannibal Burress—into comedic grooves with just the right harmonic undertones. Keep your eyes peeled as well for L.A. Lakers hoops superstar Kobe Bryant, actor-comedian Paul Scheer, and a cameo at the very end that puts the ideal capper on all that’s come before.

But there’s a soft, sweet spot in Daddy’s Home, too, about parents and kids and the realities of divorce—about how it takes teamwork to make a family, how parenting is hard work and no two dads are the same.

Brad tries to see beneath Dusty’s tough exterior. “I think, in here,” he says, pointing to his heart, “there’s a creamy center.” Daddy’s Home has one, as well, and it gives this rollicking co-parenting comedy a burst of sweet, flavorful feel-good that could make it a new seasonal repeat long after its theatrical run is done.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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