I had the fun experience of taking two really nice seven-year-olds to a movie this past Saturday. Of course, I had to pick THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS because I knew I would also get a big kick out of it.
The kids had fun and laughed in all the right places, but I had even more fun.
Not because of the animation although that was just fine. Not because of the story line although that was an intriguing adventure. Not because of the dachshund using the stand mixer as a back scratcher although that was what first caught my attention. No. It was because I couldn’t quite step out of my role as a writer while watching it. I thought the screenwriters did a really good job of establishing individual character traits for each of the main ‘players’.
While Max and Duke (and most of the other pooches) play the dog stereotypes straight: needy, loving, loyal, food motivated, there are some surprises.
The cats were hilariously haughty and wicked (of course I am a dog person). Chloe the cat's dialogue rocks: As your friend I gotta be honest with you, I don't care about you or your problem.
The dogs, naturally, were needier. No big surprise. But the characters that really ‘worked’ were the ones that played against type: Gidget, the sweet, gentle and very ‘girly’ pooch (possibly a white blonde Pomeranian who must have a live-in groomer) turned out to have a spine of steel when she decided to rescue Max. She won my respect, as did the falcon who tries to go against instincts creating some great moments.
But it was Snowflake, the adorably fluffy evil bunny, a totally hilarious deranged revolutionary/anarchist that made the movie for me.
It all reminded me of the value of giving characters depth and surprise by playing against type.
I sort of regretted not making Walter the Pug a secret bank robber or anarchist. Too late now, he’s just a cuddly pug, good only for love in our Book Collector Mysteries. Still, there’s nothing wrong with that. On the other hand, we have done something different with the pug theme in The Hammett Hex (coming soon as you know).
So what about you? Seen any good movies lately? Like animation? How about thoughts on characters who play against type? Got a fave in animation or regular films?
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