Unleashed (NR)

Comedy 96 min. August 25, 2017
By Chris Packham
A fantasy about seducing your pets seems like it should be pretty transgressive, a cinematic middle finger to straight-laced, cis-speciesist notions about sexual desire. In practice, though, director Finn Taylor's Unleashed is an inoffensive Hallmark card of an indie comedy, as indifferently intended by the sender as it is regarded by the recipient. Which is true? Is our culture so evolved and progressive that we can accept a workplace conversation in which one woman bemoans her inability to bone her dog? Or can basically any sexual taboo be normalized by broad jokes, sugar-chugging montages and two instances of the shittiest-ever session-band cover of Hot Chocolate's "You Sexy Thing"?

The charming, hilarious Kate Micucci is Emma, a software engineer with low self-confidence and a broken heart. A work friend warns her about a celestial alignment that will cause disruptive changes in her life; that night, some artful illustrations of constellations in the sky transform her pets from animals into humans, and they run away. Emma's golden retriever, Sam, is played by Steve Howey as clumsy, sweet and butt-scratchy. Justin Chatwin is Diego, her cat, who's precise, socially aloof and prone to retching. For reasons that aren't 100 percent clear, they compete to romance Emma while learning to live as humans. This is really most of the film -- a lot of climbing on furniture, humping strangers on dance floors and licking food from plates in fancy restaurants. Sean Astin plays Carl, one of those tiny-house-dwelling oddballs, who pines for Emma and therefore represents society's intra-species sexual bias, but unfortunately, this is not the film that will tear down that wall.
Finn Taylor Justin Chatwin, Steve Howey, Kate Micucci, Sean Astin, Hana Mae Lee Finn Taylor Susan Johnson Level 33 Entertainment

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