I like Austen. I enjoy zombies. Separately, that is. But together? Well, sure. This could be like fried chicken and waffles, a pretty odd pairing if you ask me. But it has somehow become a staple in most American restaurants serving soul food. So yeah, Austen and zombies. Sure. So this movie is Pride and Prejudice…and zombies. Says so in the title. To its credit it doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it advertises. With that said, anyone coming to see this should come with an open mind. Now while we cannot expect a precise adherence to the plot of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. One does want the characters to be the way Austen created them. And yes, I could watch Lily James all day. She is lovely and charming. However she isn’t the Elizabeth Bennet in my head. I pictured Lizzie to a little more, I don’t know, impish? Not the best of terms to use, I know. But like, she’s quick to laughter. And more impulsive and outspoken than Lily James’s portrayal. Same Riley’s Mr. Darcy did not quite live up to my expectations as well. I didn’t find his kind of “haughtiness” believable. I feel like right after he does or says some egotistical thing, he has that face that kind of feels apologetic about it. The star of the show for me would be Matt Smith as Mr. Collins. He just relished being ridiculously pompous and self-absorbed. He did a brilliant job being the comic relief. And Lena Heady’s Lady Catherine de Bourgh is so very entertaining to watch too. If there is anyone who can look at you, and make you feel like a zero on a scale of 1-10, that’s Cersei Lannister.
BUT the thing it. I don’t think they did a good of incorporating zombies into Austen’s world, at least not good enough to make the story of a zombie apocalypse work for the kind of story Pride and Prejudice provides. I mean, would you consider manners and marriage as your top priority when the world is on the brink of a zombie apocalypse? As parents, would you still be preoccupied by marrying off your daughters when there is a ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE! So yeah, if you cannot get past that, don’t watch this movie. But if you want to give this a shot, do as zombies do. Leave your brains out the door for 108 minutes and you’ll be fine.
The first thing that came into my mind when I saw the title and trailer for this movie was how this would be like the pet version of Toy Story. What does Fido do when we aren’t around? And it’s a lovely concept. However, The Secret Life of Pets is not as sophisticated as Toy Story, or any offering from say a studio like Pixar. Sometimes there are scenes that feel like they’re merely moving the plot along, just to fill up the 86 minutes run time, without consideration as to whether or not it actually contributes to the story arc. And there are all these characters, critters of all shapes and sizes that does nothing but clutter the film. I mean sure, the slapstick comedy is fun and silly, but this movie is just way too busy, and way too hyper.
The only time that I was emotionally moved was the ending, a montage of pet and master reunion after a day of being away from each other. On one side of the door are the pets pretending as if they have been waiting for their masters’ return all day. Well except the Chloe the cat who couldn’t care less, which is a cat’s way of saying she cares? Okay now, there is this thing on YouTube, a compilation of videos of dogs welcoming soldiers home from a long deployment, which I have taken to watching, and after a while I find myself tearing up. Aaand then my sister will begin questioning my sanity. Anyway, I thought The Secret Life of Pets did good in capturing the absolute joy and delight of a pet and master reunion.That and the solid voice acting. I was surprised to find Louis C.K. voicing the good-natured, always chipper Jack Russell terrier, Max. Louis C.K’s comedy has always been of the “dark” kind. So yeah, this is a bit outside of his personality, but he does a great job of it. It’s nice to see Lake Bell get more voice-over work because she is amazing. (Go see In A World…(2013)) And Jenny Slate is a perfect fit for the hopeless romantic, go-getter white Pomeranian Gidget. And Dana Carvey and Albert Brooks will always do you a solid. And I love how detailed and the illustrations are, and not to mention how terribly adorable! They anthromophized them real good. They have the cutest facial expressions! But heart trumps cute any day.
Surprisingly enough, this was a good movie. Not a great one. But yeah, I consider Marvel’s good movie track record as still very much “good”. This could easily have been too psychedelic, or on the other end of the spectrum, just too abracadabra-silly that the stakes become close to zero. But I thought the movie was able to balance the trippier aspects of the mystical world, with the real life issues of world-renowned surgeon, Dr. Stephen Strange. As always Marvel knows how to balance humor and silliness, with the darker aspects of their story. The world-building was great, the mythology was clearly told, and I can see where this fits in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Benedict Cumberbatch is perfectly cast. He does look pretty much like the Dr. Strange I saw in the X-Men animated series back in the 90s. And Tilda Swinton as Sorcerer Supreme is a dream come true. Mads Mikkelsen, despite hearing otherwise, did an ace job as the villain Kaecillius. Much of it is due to him being a superb actor, with such a strong screen presence. I read that his character was created to be the Saruman to the Sauron of the powerful Dormammu of the Dark Dimension. But Saruman, you can see him develop as the story progresses, you get a clearer understanding of him. But Kaecillius somehow remains distant to me. Cold. Again not Mikkelsen’s fault. I do like Mordo played by the lovely Chiwetel Ejiofor. The guy whose world comes crashing down on him when he learns that the person and the order he devoted his life too, isn’t as principled as he thought it was. He has this very strict moral code and anything that doesn’t fit that, he considers an abomination. I am excited to see where his character goes. Someone who is as unbendingly righteous and unforgiving as him, is bound to go through some troubling things in the MCU. Also to all of the actors’ credit, they speak their gobbledygook dialogue with such conviction, that while I may not understand all the physics and the mystical “stuff”, I believe every word of it. Plus, it has amazing visuals and fantastic sound design. And The Cloak of Levitation is a scene stealer! Also Benedict Cumberbatch should invite Tilda Swinton and Mad Mikkelsen to his cheekbone-polishing parties with Matt Smith and Tom Hiddleston. I think it’s high time to expand that guest list. Yep this is (or was) a thing. Look it up. 😉
Have you seen any of these movies? Do talk to me in the comments section below! If not, what have you seen lately?