THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR [R] D
While I have been a begrudging fan of writer-director James DeMonaco’s evolving series, “The Purge: Election Year” arrives, loaded (quite unintentionally) with unfortunate baggage that sinks things for me. With a tagline promising to “Keep America Great,” the movie seeks to capitalize on the not-so vague conservative stirrings of Donald Trump, this riling up of immigrant fears and class & racial divides. And screening the film a week after its opening, in the midst of a series of troubling events across our nation, I couldn’t stomach the empty caricatures of white villainy, stereotypical depictions of sacrificial minorities, and the tired fairy tale with the requisite happy (wink-wink) ending for all the believers in such fantasies. I wish I had made the decision to sit out this “Election.”
THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS [PG] B
“The Secret Life of Pets” gives us several characters in conflict. The deliriously happy dog Max (Louis CK) faces off first with new mongrel stray Duke (Eric Overstreet) who seems ready to horn in on his happy home, then he butts heads with Snowball (Kevin Hart), an undomesticated bunny leading a likeminded animals living in the sewers of New York. A host of other sub-plots pop up on the radar, along with a gaggle of voices that seem familiar in a comforting way. Animated films perfectly capture formulaic story types, offering up animals or robots as human stand-ins, with the inevitable happy endings that are never realized in the real world. I suppose that’s the genius of the dream factory and directors Chris Renaud (the “Despicable Me” movies) and newbie Yarrow Cheney use every colorful emotional trick in the book and bit of action to distract us with admirable aplomb.