Written and Directed by Finn Taylor.
Starring Kate Micucci, Justin Chatwin, Steve Howey, Illeana Douglas, Hana Mae Lee, and Sean Astin.
When a cosmic event turns Emma’s dog and cat into two perfect guys, Emma reconsiders her outlook on dating, hilariously works out her trust issues, and ultimately learns to love herself.
The plot of Finn Taylor’s Unleashed doesn’t take much to explain. A cat and a dog become men one night and try to re-enter their owner’s life as humans. Far from the target audience for this picture, I’m not a pet owner and have cared for betta fish, but a standard recitation of plot doesn’t serve to expound this movie enough.
Unleashed is an actor’s playground and it’s the cast’s commitment to staying in character that takes this picture further than feel good lite cinema. Shameless co-stars, Steve Howey and Justin Chatwin, are Summit the dog and Ajax the cat. Provided the chance to act like animals they completely submit to the performance. Any allowance for self-consciousness would’ve registered on-screen. Instead we have an assistant, in Summit, whose eagerness to please lacks counterfeit, and a model, in Ajax, who periodically hisses and licks his hands. It’s enamoring. Without snubbing Howey, whose spirited physical comedy is a mark of his career, Chatwin’s aptitude for registering feline is utterly confident.
The best part is you never get mad at either of these characters. Ajax and Summit are animals. Animals don’t stop being inappropriate when it’s romantically convenient and they’re not deliberately offensive. They play around with figuring out money and wearing clothes, after a Terminator style nude arrival in the world, but they never lose sight of who they are to become human, or lapse into ‘cats versus dogs.’ Ajax and Summit’s rivalry is lax and they are happy to share Emma’s love.
Cat and dog are big performances. What stands out about Unleashed is Kate Micucci (Garfunkel & Oates), as their owner, Emma, isn’t left out of the scene chewing. Her diverse talents are all over this movie, from the animated credits to the music soundtrack. There’s a point where she has to recap her pets’ baffling antics to Sean Astin and it’s a mad cap stream of body theater. Her character is a successful app designer whose job matters. She has to break from putting up search posters to go to work, and her colleagues are assertive females. The horoscope app she’s designing with her partner (a cool Hana Mae Lee, Pitch Perfect) is vaguely described but these career women know what they’re doing.
Body switch movies grow retroactively creepy with study (Tom Hanks’ Big stays entertaining the less you think about it). Unleashed escapes a lot of awkwardness by leaving time for Emma to interact with her pets after she realizes who they are. They don’t immediately change back, and her friends get caught up on what’s been happening. In fraught times, movies can be a balm to reality. All of the laughs raised in Unleashed are natural and delivered at no one’s expense.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★