A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Pets United is an animated movie about animals who find themselves up against robot police. Expect nonstop animated action, including chases, fights, predatory animals and robots, car/train crashes, flying knives, a menacing machine that crushes scrap metal (including, almost, a robot with human feelings and some pets), and the ultimate -- and somewhat vengeful -- destruction of an evil mastermind robot. Happily (possible spoiler alert?), the pets survive unharmed, including one who appeared to have been crushed at the start of the film, thanks to their courage and loyalty. The pets all have their own backstories and quirks, as well as a variety of European accents that could be seen as stereotypical (menacing zoo animals are Slavic, a braggy poodle is Italian, a spry fox is Irish, a snooty feline is British, etc). One animal is obsessed with body treatments like lip enhancements, eyelash extensions, nose jobs, waxing, massage, and more. Language is mostly taunts and insults ("loser," "stupid," "freak," "scum," "wimp," "bootlicker," "buffoon," etc.), and there are references to the "devil," "hell," "poo," and "fart." The movie tries to convey messages about respecting nature and the dangers of artificial intelligence, but it buries them too late in the film for them to have much impact on younger viewers.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Stray dog Roger (voiced by Patrick Roche) is wanted for thievery by the robot police of Robo City in PETS UNITED. He's used to living on the streets and doing things his own way, so he's unsure about taking on the robot pet, Bob (Felix Auer), who escaped the scrap metal pile and has attached himself to Roger. But Bob proves to be very useful at helping Roger escape the police, especially when the evil city mayor (Eddie Marsan) expels all humans and non-robots from Robo City and a handful of pets find themselves left behind. They include pampered cat Belle (Natalie Dormer), narcissistic poodle Ronaldo (Jeff Burrell), flirty pig Sophie (Teresa Gallagher), and fearful pug Walter (Harvey Friedman). When Bob sacrifices himself to the robot police to save his new friends, the pets put their own lives in danger to get him back.
Is it any good?
Pets United feels entirely familiar and yet strangely foreign at the same time; something is just a little off. A motley crew of animals sets out to save the day and avoid capture by stray-snatchers, much like in The Secret Life of Pets. A wise, bearded animal who looks a lot like Kung Fu Panda's Master Shifu offers guidance. A snooty and pampered female pet falls for a big-hearted scamp of a stray, like in The Lady and the Tramp. And so on. You'd think you could guess what was going to happen based on the references, but Pets United is not so predictable. In a children's film, that's not always a good thing.
The ending tosses out several competing morals related to respecting nature and fearing robots, but it's too little, too late after an hour and a half of action for characters that we mostly don't care much about. The European clichés could be off-putting, an unexpected rap song from zoo animals seems out of place, and one animal's obsession with beauty enhancements feels inappropriate for younger viewers. The ending also has a moment of vengeance that seems unsuitable. On the plus side, the animation is attractive, some of the characters have endearing foibles, and there are a few heartening or fun moments.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about other films that feature pets uniting to save the day, like Pets United. Did any of the animal characters remind you of others from animated films you've watched?
The evil robot posing as the city mayor can't stand imperfections or messy human emotions. What messages do you think the filmmakers were trying to get across about artificial intelligence or robots with this character?
What did you think of Robo City? What caught your attention in the animation?
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