The premise of the new comedy film “Unleashed” – debuting in theaters and on demand Friday, Aug. 25 – may make you wonder why no one’s done it before. After all, it seems deceptively simple: What if a single gal’s two loyal pets morphed into two equally loyal single guys?
But there’s a challenge inherent in the device: It would take bowls full of talent and creativity to maintain the characters’ proper levels of condescending cat-titude and doggy devotion. Yet writer/director Finn Taylor manages to pull it off with several laugh-out-loud moments, all at a brisk pace.
The 90-minute indie film stars the multitalented comedienne Kate Micucci, half of the musical comedy duo Garfunkel and Oates. Micucci plays Emma, an app designer who’s heartbroken after her former boyfriend makes off with her newest design. The answer, it seems, is in the stars; a rare celestial event turns Ajax and Summit, her cat and dog, into Diego and Sam (played by Justin Chatwin and Steve Howey).
The pair suddenly materialize on the streets of San Francisco as grown men. Diego, true to his feline roots, is both world-wise and world-weary. He tells the naïve Sam that unlike with pets, Emma will choose only one human to invite into her cozy home. “I plan on being the one she takes back,” he warns. “I’m gettin’ back on that velvet couch.”
Both characters compete for Emma’s affections while trying to understand the mores of mankind. Not surprisingly, human courtship bears some resemblance to the rituals of the animal kingdom.
Suspense and laughs build, particularly in a sidesplitting catwalk scene. It’s the kind of smart, sweet-natured fun sometimes missing from today’s more ribald comedies.
Two loyal pets become two loyal guys in the sweet-natured indie film.
La Cage aux Paws
Micucci, who lived in New Jersey until the age of 8, said she wants audiences to “walk away from this movie feeling happy. I know that sounds so simple, but watching ‘Unleashed’ in a full theater has been kind of a magical experience. It’s just constant rolling laughter. It really is a happy movie and it is a chance to escape from everything for 90 minutes.”
She noted, “The cast and crew were always smiling. And I think that happiness really comes through the film. When I first read the script, I was like, ‘Oh yeah…I get this girl.’ I related to Emma in so many ways. I am an animal lover and there truly is nothing like the unconditional love from animals. Also, in the movie, Emma is going through a breakup and at the time of shooting, I was personally going through the same thing. It was like the script found me just at the right time.”
She doesn’t think her New Jersey roots had much influence on the film – “I recently re-read my first-grade journal and almost every entry begins with, ‘Today we went to the mall’ ” – but she fondly remembers her grandfather and grandmother owning, respectively, the Bread Basket Deli and the Fashion Nook in Somerville. Apparently, no animals were involved.
Truth about dogs and cats
The film also stars Sean Astin (who gave a talk at Hudson County Community College in Jersey City not long ago) as the local handyman, and Josh Brener as the aforementioned ex-boyfriend/jerk.
The comedy will premiere at the Cinema Village in New York and other theaters starting Friday, July 25, and is available for home viewing the same day on the internet and on demand. It’s produced by Braveart Films and distributed by Level 33 Entertainment in association with Blue Fox Entertainment.
For more information, see http://themovieunleashed.com/.
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