SHE WAS PERFECTLY CONTENT HAVING HER head resting in my lap as I scratched behind her ears. If I stopped for any reason she would tilt her head back to look directly at me, with an inquisitive expression on her face. It was as if she was asking me why I stopped; it was the cutest thing. She had met me at the door when I arrived for the party. I had never seen her before, only hearing about her existence from a friend a week prior to the party. There were already people milling about when I showed up; so, I do not know if she was waiting specifically for me or was greeting every person who walked in. I had learned years ago never to extend a hand facedown because it might be perceived as a punishment. Instead, I extended my hand faceup below her chin line. This way it would look like a treat or gentle gesture and allow enough time for her to sniff my hand. Once she completed the inspection of my hand she bowed her head, followed by pressing her snout under my hand as if helping me lift my arm back up. I scratched her head as she gazed up at me. It wasn’t love at first sight, but I was smitten by her. SO THAT IS HOW I SPENT a good portion of my time at the party. At some point the host came up to talk with me. As I continued scratching her head the owner told me I would be totally surprised to hear she was the perfect guard dog. I asked what happened that made him realize it. He proceeded to tell me about the time a burglar broke into the house, during the middle of the day while he was at work. Evidently the burglar did not notice the food bowl on the floor when he walked through the kitchen. He wasn’t sure of the details; but he felt his dog did not greet the stranger, instead must have been watching the burglar as they walked through the house. The only reason he believed it was because of the muddy footsteps the burglar left as he was walking through the place. When the burglar went to unplug the big screen television, the dog made her move and attacked his leg. She ripped through the pants leg and clamped down on the burglar’s calf. When the owner got home the burglar was quivering in the corner of the living room with the dog guarding him. The host was right; I was stunned by the story. Such a sweet-faced dog, it just goes to show you dogs can do incredible things. REACHING NEAR THE END OF HIS life Bailey, voiced by Josh Gad (Beauty and the Beast, Marshall), was asked to find and protect his boy Ethan’s, played by Dennis Quaid (The Intruder, In Good Company), granddaughter in his next lifetime. Bailey would discover what life means to many different people. This comedic adventure drama also starred Kathryn Prescott (The Hive, Skins-TV) as CJ, Henry Lau (Final Recipe, Oh My Venus-TV) as Trent and Marg Helgenberger (Species franchise, Erin Brockovich) as Hannah. What sells this movie is the dogs; it is as simple as that. If you are not a dog person, then I do not expect you will enjoy this sequel. However, as a dog lover this film was a bit tedious for me. The script dealt with only two emotions, happy and sad, and kept things at a basic level. It also was manipulative in the way it spun the story. It was predictable with its good guy/bad guy scenarios; but luckily Josh’s vocal talent and the assortment of wonderful dogs kept me from getting totally bored.
1 ¾ stars
FROM ALL THE ANIMALS AND PETS, I have encountered, there are two special pets that stand out the most in my mind. The first one was the very first dog we had in the family. I was around 7 or 8 years old when this small black furred puppy came into our lives. She was extremely smart, knowing which rooms in the house she could go in. The living room was off limits because it had white carpeting. You could try and coax her to come in, but she knew better; she would simply sit down at the edge of the room and observe whatever activity was taking place. I do not remember her ever being afraid of anyone; she loved everyone who came into the house. Because of her I learned a new dimension to unconditional love and friendship. In addition, I had to be told what “being in heat” meant after a couple of dogs chased me down the street while I was out walking her. I refused to walk her for the rest of the week if I remember correctly. THE OTHER PET THAT STANDS OUT in my mind was this dog that my significant other brought into our relationship. He was a “pound puppy” of mixed breeds. He grew to around 40 pounds, this furry bundle of love whose tail was always wagging. I soon began referring to him as the “shadow” because he did not like to be by himself whenever anyone was home. He would follow you from room to room; in other words, from the laundry room to the bathroom to the bedroom to the balcony; it did not matter if you were in the room for only a minute. As he grew up there was one thing neither of us could understand; he took a dislike to children. Specifically, any child who was around his height. It was the oddest thing that we finally attributed to him wanting to be the alpha dog with any kid around his size. Except for this weird trait he was a very compassionate pet. He had this sixth sense that always knew how each of us was feeling. If I was watching a DVD movie that made me tear up, he would jump into my lap and put his front paws up on my shoulders to stare me directly in the face as he licked the tears from my cheeks. He was something else, wasn’t he? I feel fortunate that I had these pets in my life, just as the individuals did with their pets in this dramatic comedy. SEVERAL PEOPLE CROSS PATHS WITH EACH other that alters their lives, all because of their pets. With Vanessa Hudgens (Beastly, Spring Breakers) as Tara, Nina Dobrev (Let’s Be Cops, The Perks of Being a Wallflower) as Elizabeth, Finn Wolfhard (It, Stranger Things-TV) as Tyler, Lauren Lapkus (Jurassic World, Blended) as Daisy and Eva Longoria (Overboard, Lowriders) as Grace; this film had a few different stories taking place at the same time. It was not confusing to watch, but I felt it may have contributed to the script remaining one dimensional throughout the story. Besides being predictable, I never felt fully engaged with what was taking place on screen. However, what I did enjoy was all the animals. I appreciated that the writers did not write script for the pets, where they would need CGI to have the animals mouth the dialog. Instead they let the expressions on the pets’ faces do the talking and it was cute I must say. Excuse my verbiage but this was a “fluffy” piece of entertainment. You could easily experience the same feelings by going to an animal shelter and seeing the animals live. The only thing you might remember if you see this picture is the pets.
1 ¾ stars
THROUGHOUT THE PAST DECADES WE have been witnesses to some of the greatest animal and human relationships. There was Lassie and Timothy, where Lassie was the only one who knew Timothy was in the well. Though Charlie Brown had no idea that his dog Snoopy was an ace pilot, they were the best of friends. Shaggy could not have solved all those mysteries without Scooby, who some of you might not know was named Scoobert “Scooby” Doo. Do you know who discovered the true identity of the Wizard of Oz? It was Dorothy’s dog Toto. Without Hooch’s help Turner would not have been able to find a murderer. Based on a true story I learned about the bond between Parker Wilson and Hachi; his faithful dog who waited years for his owner to return. And how could I not mention one of the longest friendships between characters; of course, I am talking about Mickey Mouse and Pluto. I am not going to limit it to just dogs; the bond between an owner and their pet is truly special. Growing up I had a parakeet. One of my best friends had fish which used to creep me out because they were always dying so quickly. THROUGH MY STUDIES I HAVE BEEN fortunate enough to have been exposed to a variety of animals. Nothing quite exotic in my opinion; I guess bats would be the most for me. However, I did meet a dairy cow who had a screwcap affixed to the side of her belly. You could unscrew it and peer inside one of the compartments of the cow’s stomach. In college I spent a semester tending to a horse. From cleaning her stall to washing her to getting riding lessons; I was with her on a weekly basis. I overcame my uncomfortableness with reptiles after having a professor who was a big fan of them. He would lecture with a snake draped around his neck. Having a relationship with an animal is such a nurturing experience; look at what happened between Ken and Flicka. There is an unconditional love that forms in these relationships. From my personal experience looking into a dog’s eyes says it all in my opinion. Now I know some people go a step further by transferring human emotions onto their pets. They imagine their animal will have similar reactions to an event as they do. And sometimes they will even dress up their animal with human clothing. Somehow, I do not see that happening with the police dog in this adventure comedy. THERE WAS ONLY ONE WAY TO discover the identity of a global animal smuggler; police dog Max, voiced by Ludacris (Fast & Furious franchise, No Strings Attached), would have to go undercover at a dog show to help Detective Frank, played by Will Arnett (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Arrested Development-TV), find the culprit. It was a whole different world from where Max came from. This family film also had Alan Cumming (The Tempest, The Good Wife-TV) voicing Dante, Natasha Lyonne (The Rambler, Orange is the New Black-TV) voicing Mattie and Stanley Tucci (The Hunger Games franchise, Big Night) voicing Philippe. The story was simple in this picture and the script was even lower. Except for small children (ALERT: there is an inappropriate scene that last I heard was going to be re-edited, please check before going) there is no reason to sit through this film I am sad to say. I was bored beyond belief as the lame jokes fell flat, which pretty much summed up the acting—flat. Every time Will spoke all I thought about was Batman. There was nothing fun being offered to the older viewers; in other words, anyone above 8 years old. I am an animal lover but I have had more fun sitting at home watching the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on television.
1 ½ stars
RETIRING BACK TO BED I could see the eyes looking up at me from my pillow. As I came to the edge of the bed there lying in my spot, with the covers pulled up to his neck, was our dog. He looked up at me as if to say, “Is there something I can help you with?” I grant you he looked totally comfortable and in place, but c’mon; he already had his own bed to sleep in. Anytime I had to get up in the middle of the night he would immediately jump into our bed once I was out of the room; he was such a character. Dogs have such a beautiful outlook on life I believe. They give unconditional love, get such pleasure in the most mundane of things like a stick or used sock and can be such great companions. To return the favor whenever I would say “doggie massage” our dog would immediately plop down on his side so I could give him a body massage. ANOTHER ASPECT OF A DOG’S LIFE is their ability to instinctively protect a person. However some dogs may have their priorities a bit confused; ours felt the need to protect us from small children. It was the weirdest thing. If we were walking outside and a small child was nearby our dog would stop and stare at them. A low warning growl would be heard despite our pleas to relax. We could never figure out what his deal was about small children. Right now my neighbors got a 2nd dog who is a real cutie. Anytime I walk out the back door and she is in the backyard she quickly crouches down into play mode, with her butt in the air and her upper torso stretched out down on the ground. Her front paws directly out in front of her in anticipation. She waits until I call out her name then bounds over to the fence for me to pet her; unless I am wearing a hat, then all things change. She does not like me in a hat because she will bark at me non-stop, staying just out of reach behind the fence. Despite that quirk I still am quite fond of her which explains why I understood the reason the owner risked his life to find his dog in this film festival winning movie. AFTER THE MAYOR BANNED FROM THE city all dogs Atari, voiced by newcomer Kofu Rankin, was willing to risk his life to find his best friend. Written and directed by Wes Anderson (Moonrise Kingdom, Rushmore) this adventure comedy was so much fun to watch due to the creative animation. If you saw Wes’ movie Fantastic Mr. Fox then you are familiar with this style of stop-motion animation. With Bryan Cranston (Trumbo, Why Him?) voicing Chief, Edward Norton (American History, Pride and Glory) voicing Rex, Bill Murray (Lost in Translation, Groundhog Day) voicing Boss and Jeff Goldblum (The Fly, The Grand Budapest Hotel) voicing Duke; everyone blended perfectly into the well thought out detailed script. I found the story quite relevant and appreciated the way Wes incorporated humor into the political scenes. Now the script is not without a couple of dings; there were a few times where I felt the story dragged a bit. It did not hinder my enjoyment because the visuals were just so much darn fun. I honestly do not know if small children will understand the whole concept of this picture, but I cannot imagine their curiosity will not be piqued. Even if you are not a dog lover I feel you will still appreciate the love between a boy and his dog.
3 ½ stars
MADE especially for you by those knotted skinny fingers, you could only imagine it must have taken months to create the gift. She is one of your favorite relatives who always remembers you on holidays and your birthday. This year she knitted you a multi-colored, bulky sweater. You could tell immediately the sweater was going to be way too big even before you unfolded it. Holding it by the shoulders you lifted it up so the body of the sweater cascaded down like a flood. The array of colored yarns clashed in such a sharp way that your eyes squinted as a few dominant colors seemed to vibrate in their confined patch of the sweater’s landscape. Gratefully you were not asked to try on the massive sweater; you did not want her to feel any anxiety seeing you lost in the yards of yarn spinning around you. It is always the thought that counts and the fact that it must have taken her months to knit only affirmed the affection and love the two of you share for each other. SINCE I believe there are no bad pets only bad owners, I keep the same attitude when I encounter someone’s dog or cat. I do not want the owner to know I am not fond of their pet; I simply remain quiet unless their pet is constantly jumping on me or is trying to bite me. Even the friends of mine who have dogs that greet you by sticking their snouts into your crotch are a bit annoying but still loveable. Having started out in veterinary science during my college years, I have always had a soft spot for animals. With that being said, I was looking forward to this comedic drama; however similar to what I said previously, I loved the dogs in this adventure film but was not fond of the script. THE relationship between dogs and their owners is explored in this heartwarming film. Directed by Lasse Hallstrom (Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Hachi: A Dog’s Tail) and starring Dennis Quaid (Frequency, Vantage Point) as Adult Ethan, Juliet Rylance (Frances Ha, Sinister franchise) as Ethan’s Mom and Luke Kirby (The Samaritan, Shattered Glass) as Ethan’s Dad; this movie based on the novel could have been a much better picture. I was aware of the controversy surrounding a video that recently popped up of one of the dogs, but I did not feel I had all the facts to make a proper decision yet. In the meantime the script was so heavy handed that it was dripping with cloying sweetness to purposefully pull at the viewer’s heartstrings. The story was predictable and kept everything in a narrow band of emotional depth; it could have been decent if the writers had backed off from focusing on manipulating the audience’s hearts and concentrate on telling a straightforward tale. I found myself getting bored though I mostly enjoyed Josh Gad’s (The Wedding Ringer, Love & Other Drugs) voicing of Bailey. Part of me wants to give a better rating for the dogs’ performances but I know I need to be impartial. The movie studio may have had good intentions but the end result did not fit together very well.
1 ¾ stars