A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Puppy Swap: Love Unleashed is a live-action, talking-dog story. In this adventure, the adorable pups play matchmakers to a young couple whose romance has gone astray. There's no peril or suspense, only some slapstick action, which includes pies in the face and some tumbles. Some typical pooch bodily functions are referenced: pee, poop, "breaking wind," and in multiple instances, a puppy swallows something that must later be "retrieved." The couple at the center of the story kiss, cuddle together in one sleeping bag, and there's a "will they or won't they?" vibe, but no sex. Expect some stereotyping: an effeminate man and an aging woman whose memory issues and confusion are meant to elicit laughs. With romantic comedy at the heart of this tale, the movie is okay for tweens, but not meant for those looking for a cute and cuddly animal romp.
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What's the story?
Celebrating their one-year anniversary as a couple, Jessica (Sara Fletcher) and Mel (Rip Hillis) coincidentally gift each other with twin white Pomeranian puppies in PUPPY SWAP: LOVE UNLEASHED. It's a joyous moment, topped only by Mel proposing to his beloved partner and giving her a ring. The future looks wonderful. Three months later, however, the engagement is off. Jess has been offered a career-making job in Los Angeles, more than a thousand miles from their Montana home. Mel won't move. Jessica doesn't want to turn down the opportunity. It's a bitter parting, painful, too, for Haley and Lindsay, the two bonded puppies who will be separated as well. Four years later, Mel is still living in his Montana ranch, pining for his lost love. In Los Angeles Jess is on the verge of a major success. Marketing the fragrance she has created will take her on a publicity tour around the country. Jess's boss and now-fiance, Powers (Corin Nemec), makes Montana the first stop on the tour for a "hometown girl makes good" appearance. In an accidental stroke of good luck, the pups are secretly reunited when Jess lands in Montana. The pesky little dogs come up with a plan to bring the lovers back together. It isn't easy, but they're very resourceful young pups, and they're not to be denied.
Is it any good?
This odd hybrid of cloying talking-dog story, farcical comedy, and sweet but routine romance is weakened further by amateurish execution, some overblown performances, and an ever-changing tone. Everybody is working hard in Puppy Swap: Love Unleashed, but they're undone by the incompetence and inconsistency of the creative team in charge. A ten-mile car ride, which starts in daylight, ends at night. Dogs that are supposed to be identical are anything but. Some of the actors are obviously brand new, and others are painfully unrestrained. Sara Fletcher, an able young actress, deserves better. And it's a sad legacy for Margot Kidder, in what was most certainly her last role.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the meaning of stereotyping. Which character(s) in Puppy Swap: Love Unleashed might be considered a stereotype? Did you find Delilah's increasing foggy memory and confusion funny? How does her character perpetuate stereotypes of older people?
In this movie, like many others, choosing a simple life in a small town or rural area is found to be more satisfying than a big city. What are some of the positives and negatives about both locations? What do you like best about where you live?
For what ages do you think talking-dog movies are intended? Puppy Swap: Love Unleashed incorporates the pups into a romantic comedy about grown-ups. Do you think younger talking-dog fans will respond positively? Why or why not?
- On DVD or streaming: July 16, 2019
- Cast: Sara Fletcher, Rib Hillis, Margot Kidder
- Director: Mike Gut
- Studio: Lionsgate
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Adventures, Cats, Dogs, and Mice
- Run time: 92 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: suggestive material and some rude humor
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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