The Secret Life of Pets
Out: Now screening (G, 91 minutes)
Directors: Chris Renaud & Yarrow Chaney
Cast: Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, Ellie Kemper, Kevin Hart, Jenny Slate
Outline: It’s a dog-tries-to-lose-other-dog world in this animation from Illumination Entertainment (Despicable Me, The Minions), where the happily domesticated Max (Louis C.K.) suddenly has to share his owner – or as he sees it, best friend – Kate (Ellie Kemper) with oversized mutt Duke (Eric Stonestreet). When the double-crossing pair get lost, they have to buddy up to avoid feral cats and a vengeful white rabbit (Kevin Hart) who spreads liberation theology as part of his quest to remove animals from their owners.
Adult Irritation Potential: Close to non-existent, as there’s a slew of comic voices to identify and Illumination’s elongated style, for human legs and skyscrapers alike, is warmly familiar.
Out: Now screening (M, 77 minutes)
Director: Rosemary Myers
Cast: Bethany Whitmore, Harrison Feldman, Matthew Whittet, Amber McMahon
Outline: Starting a new high school for Greta Driscoll (Bethany Whitmore) becomes all the more demanding when her mother invites the teen’s entire class, possible friend Elliott (Harrison Feldman) and troika of mean girls included, to her 15th birthday party. The 1970s period detail and deadpan coming-of-age humour are transformed by Greta slipping into a fantasy state where the trials of growing up acquire potent imagery. Matthew Whittet’s adaptation of his play (he also appears as Greta’s dad joke-telling father) has drawn comparison to Wes Anderson and David Lynch, but it’s a genuine Australian original. Wild in design, but emotionally genuine.
Adult Irritation Potential: None. Rosemary Myers’ ingenious and involving depiction of adolescence’s trials plays as well with discerning adults as teenagers.
Out: September 15 (PG, 103 minutes)
Director: David Lowery
Cast: Oakes Fegley, Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford
Outline: When a young boy loses his parents in a car accident in America’s Pacific Northwest, he’s rescued, and raised, by a furry green dragon who eloquently snorts but doesn’t speak. Six years later, they’re living it up as wild things, but civilisation – in the form of loggers, a park ranger (Bryce Dallas Howard) and a movie star expertly playing a reassuring retiree (Robert Redford) – intrudes, and Pete (Oakes Fegley) is separated from his companion, who comes looking for him in the least Disney-like film Disney has made in many years. Director David Lowery (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints) has made a movie about friendship, not a monster.
Adult Irritation Potential: Minimal, as the heartfelt storytelling comes with a bittersweet kick that accepts that times changes everything over digital extravagance.
The Red Turtle
Out: September 15 (PG, 81 minutes)
Director: Michael Dudok de Wit
Outline: The result of the first international co-production from revered Japanese animation house Studio Ghibli, collaborating with Dutch director Michael Dudok de Wit on his feature debut, The Red Turtle is a dialogue-free castaway tale, where an unknown man is washed ashore on a tropical island and finds companionship with the untouched natural habitat. Every time the man attempts to leave the island, a giant red turtle bars his escape, isolating him without explanation and steadily opening up the tale to all kids of allegorical interpretation. Patience will reveal a painterly animation palette.
Adult Irritation Potential: Depends on the children watching. The solitude and silence, while beautifully rendered, may be too minimal for younger audience members, resulting in fidgety distraction.
Out: September 22 (G, 89 minutes)
Directors: Nicholas Stoller & Doug Sweetland
Cast: Andy Samberg, Katie Crown, Jennifer Aniston, Kelsey Grammer
Outline: Taking a break from raunchy comedy, co-director Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) has put together the classic G-rated modern Hollywood animation about the quest of the storks who used to deliver babies, but now work as corporate drones, to get back to basics. Junior (Andy Samberg) and his human co-worker Tulip (Katie Crown) try to deploy a baby to a family, despite the opposition of head office and a pack of wolves whose leaders are voiced by comedians Key and Peele. Expect a paean to the virtues of family.
Adult Irritation Potential: Depends on your tolerance for Andy Samberg and obvious jokes. This stork concept may also require explanatory conversations post-movie about where babies really come from.
Out: September 29 (PG, 89 minutes)
Director: Roger Ross Williams
Cast: Owen Suskind, Ron Suskind, Cornelia Suskind
Outline: A winner at the Sundance Film Festival, Roger Ross Williams’ documentary is a depiction of family bond that can never be extinguished. As a young boy Owen Suskind was diagnosed with autism, which led to pervasive developmental disorder. At the age of three his communication ceased, but over the years his dedicated parents realised that he was able to understand, and speak through, the Disney animated films he obsessively watched. The film recounts the family’s journey while following the now thriving 23-year-old Owen through the uncertainties of independent living.
Adult Irritation Potential: This is not your standard children’s movie, but it could readily appeal to teenagers ready to engage with a true against the odds tale or looking to understand autism more. The same applies to the adults accompanying them.
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Out: September 29 (CTC, 127 minutes)
Director: Tim Burton
Cast: Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Samuel L. Jackson
Outline: Tim Burton gets back to the movies Hollywood prizes him for: offbeat fantasy with a wide appeal and a distinctive touch. The adaptation of Random Riggs’ 2011 young adult novel tells the story of Jake Portman (Asa Butterfield), who following a family tragedy finds himself on a mysterious island where an idiosyncratic headmistress (Evan Green) cares for a group of unique children – two mouths, lighter than air, invisibility – threatened by malevolent outside forces (here comes Samuel L. Jackson).
Adult Irritation Potential: Burton has grown hit-and-miss, and this very British version of The X-Men with a strong strain of Harry Potter could easily charm or corrode.
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