A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Unleashed is a creative comedy about recovering from betrayal. It poses a whimsical "what if," bringing a lovelorn software designer to wish that she could meet a man as wonderful, loving, and loyal as her rescued dog and cat. When a powerful astrological conjunction makes this happen one moonlit night, the dog and cat, now in handsome male human form, each try to make their way in the world and woo their former owner, using all their canine and feline qualities. The man-dog humps a lectern. The cat snuggles seductively with his owner. The movie makes sexual references, as when a friend asks if Emma has slept with both Diego and Sam. She says yes, but she is referring to nothing more than actual sleep. "I didn't even see them naked." A dog-man drinks and likes tequila, which makes him drunk. Language includes "tush," "butt," "crap," "a--hole," and "slut."
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What's the story?
UNLEASHED is a romantic comedy fantasy about a code-writing orphan named Emma (Kate Micucci) whose ex-boyfriend leaves her and gains fame and fortune by stealing the great phone app she created. Unable to trust anyone but her rescued pets, Emma is devastated when her dog and cat go missing under a full moon, a magical occurrence predicted by her new app-creating partner, Nina (Hana Mae Lee of Pitch Perfect renown), who is an astrologist. Carl (Sean Astin) is the handyman always around, always longing for Emma's attention but never able to attain more than friend status with her. Odd, endearing, and sometimes filthy dog and cat habits provide much of the comedy. You know you are in a fantasy when Justin Chatwin, playing Diego, the cat formerly known as Ajax, finds work as a model by slithering and hissing through an audition, appropriately on a catwalk. We are to believe this immediately earns him an agent, large amounts of money, and gigs that put his enormous likenesses on looming billboards all over town. Summit the Labrador becomes Sam (Steve Howey), and when he is seen cavorting effortlessly through the park, several runners offer to pay him to train them. Diego, whose feline understanding of human nature equips him with a plan to get back with his beloved Emma, explains to Sam that, in their new human form, they must be in competition for Emma's affections because humans live in pairs and there will only be room for one of them. Both achieve some success in their campaigns, managing to "sleep" with Emma in pet-like ways -- one coiled above her pillow and the other draped across her legs at the foot of the bed. Emma expects sex from her newfound dates but only gets some nuzzles, licks, and purring. Eventually, Emma figures out these guys are actually her missing pets and consults the astrologist, who predicts another astrological convergence that will turn the guys back into pets. At this point she recognizes that steady, reliable Carl is the guy for her.
Is it any good?
The greatest charm of the frothy tale lies in its key performances. Chatwin as a scheming, sinuous cat who has been turned into a man, Howey as an eager, guileless dog also living in a man's body, and Micucci as the romantically wronged woman who loves them both are entertaining to watch. Writer-director Finn Taylor's biggest plot problem is juggling her fun interactions with the vivid, outsized personalities of the pets-come-to-human-life against Emma's growing friendship with the steady, less colorful Carl, who watches longingly from the sidelines as the hunky dog-man and the intriguing cat-man "woo" her. Somewhere in this one-joke story, we all know that Carl is the true-hearted guy who will love her (humanly) the way she deserves to be loved, just as we know that Emma deserves that kind of good guy.
But that longing can't compete in entertainment value with watching a human dog hump a lectern or a human cat lick milk from a one-serve container. So Unleashed's director Taylor has his fun giving us a cat-man in a designer suit licking his hands and then smearing the saliva around his face. Micucci's sparkle recalls spritely comic actresses of the past -- including the young Goldie Hawn, Imogen Coca, and Georgette Engel of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Her resemblance to Illeana Douglas is uncanny, so it's a surprise when Douglas actually shows up in a small role as Emma's boss.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Unleashed wants us to view its magical premise. Does the fact that pets can't be turned into humans signal that this is a lighthearted romp? Does it instruct viewers to laugh and suspend disbelief?
What traits and habits of your pets would you choose to mimic if this were a movie about them?
While animal traits as portrayed by human actors are played for comedy, what are some ways that domesticated pets and humans are similar and actually share habits and traits?
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