Cleaning Out The DVR: A Very Merry Toy Store (dir by Paula Hart)


(Hi there!  So, as you may know because I’ve been talking about it on this site all year, I have got way too much stuff on my DVR.  Seriously, I currently have 193 things recorded!  I’ve decided that, on January 15th, I am going to erase everything on the DVR, regardless of whether I’ve watched it or not.  So, that means that I’ve now have only have a month to clean out the DVR!  Will I make it?  Keep checking this site to find out!  I recorded A Very Merry Toy Store off of Lifetime on November 26th!)

As I watched A Very Merry Toy Store, I found myself wondering, “Could any couple possibly be more adorable than Melissa Joan Hart and Mario Lopez?”

Hart and Lopez play rival toy store owners in this movie and they are the main reason to watch.  Hart is Connie Forrester.  Lopez is Will DiNova.  At one time, their fathers owned one toy story but when a conflict led to the end of their partnership, it also led to Connie and Will growing up to be rivals.  Connie’s toy store is struggling.  Will’s toy store is thriving but he’s struggling personally as he tries to deal with a divorce.  However, Will and Connie will have to set their differences aside because Roy Barnes (Billy Gardell) has just arrived in town and he brings with him the promise of the type of big chain store that puts independent toy stores out of business!

So, obviously, the main appeal here is that Mario Lopez was A.C. Slater and Melissa Joan Hart was Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.  The film even highlights the Sabrina connection by casting Beth Broderick as Connie’s mother.  (Broderick gets a subplot of her own, a sweet love story with old pro Brian Dennehy.)  Lopez and Hart are so overwhelming likable that it’s easy to overlook the fact that nothing surprising at all happens in A Very Merry Toy Store.  Whenever they get together and smile, the blinding likability on display keeps you from worrying about things like plot holes or the fact that Roy is a bit of a cartoonish villain.  Lopez and Hart are fun to watch and you hope that their characters end up together.  If nothing else, you know they’re going to have amazingly likable children.

Speaking of Mario Lopez, does he have a picture of Dorian Gray in his attic or what?  The same day that I watched A Very Merry Toy Store, I also watched an old episode of Saved By The Bell and I was once again shocked by the fact that Lopez has apparently not aged in twenty years.  As for Melissa Joan Hart, she’s all always be Sabrina to me.  She’s also a pretty good actress with a very genuine screen presence.  This is the second time that Lopez and Hart have played a couple and hopefully, they’ll do so again next Christmas.

A Very Merry Toy Store may be a predictable holiday film but it is more than saved the charisma of its two leads.

 

Film Review: The Secret Life of Pets (dir by Chris Renaud and Yarrow Cheney)


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If you own a pet, then you know the experience of wondering what they do all day while your away from the house.  My sister Erin and I own a black cat named Doc.  When I leave the house in the morning, he’s usually sleeping on the couch.  When I come back home 8 hours later, he’s usually still there.

“Doc,” I’ll say, “didn’t you do anything while I was gone!?”

“Meh,” Doc will reply, before getting up, stretching, and then hopping off the couch.  He’ll then lead me into the kitchen and demand that I feed him.  Once he’s been fed, he’ll hop back up on the couch, curl up, and wait for Erin to come home.

Now, personally, I think that’s all an act.  There’s no way that any living creature could spend 8 hours doing nothing.  My theory is that Doc spends the day patrolling the house, taunting the dogs next door, and watching old movies on TCM.  But, until I learn to speak his language (because he has shown next to no interest in learning how to speak English), I will never be able to talk about classic Hollywood filmmaking with him.  And that’s a tragedy.

The new animated film, The Secret Life of Pets, shows us what pets do when their owners aren’t around.  (Or, at the very least, it shows what a small group of animals in Manhattan do.)  Some pets party.  Some hunt. A lost guinea pig named Norman (voiced by the film’s director,Chris Renaud) wanders through the heating ducts and tries to find his way home.  Chloe (voiced by Lake Bell), a Tabby cat, lays about her apartment and talks about how apathetic she is.

Meanwhile, a terrier named Max (Louis C.K.) spends all of his time eagerly waiting for his owner, Katie (Ellie Kemper), to come home.  Max is very proud of the fact that he and Katie are best friends.  His life revolves around her, so you can imagine his surprise when Katie comes home with a new dog.  Duke (Eric Stonestreet) is a gigantic and shaggy mongrel.  Even though Katie says that Duke is now a part of the family, Max takes an immediate dislike to him.  When Duke’s attempts to be friendly are ignored, he responds by turning into a bully.

(In Duke’s defense, he has just gotten out of the pound.  Before he was captured, he was owned by a kindly old man but, one day, Duke got out of the house and got lost.  When you consider what Duke has suffered, you can’t help but feel that he has the right to be a little bit grouchy.)

After Max and Duke both get lost while being taken for a walk, Max decides to help Duke get back to his old home.  Meanwhile, under the leadership of Gidget (Jenny Slate), a Pomeranian who has a crush on Max, all of the other pets try to track down their friend and help him return home before he’s captured by animal control.

And, then there’s the revolutionaries.  Living in the sewers, a group of former pets are plotting to overthrow their former owners.  They are being led by a bunny named Snowball, who is not only a sociopath but also sounds exactly like Kevin Hart.

Anyway, The Secret Life of Pets is a cute film.  It never quite escapes the shadow of Toy Story 3 (which it frequently resembles) but it’s genuinely sweet and Louis C.K. does such a good job voicing Max that even a cat person like me couldn’t help but fall in love with that neurotic little dog.  There are a few jokes that don’t quite work (To cite just one example, the film introduces a hawk voiced by Albert Brooks and then fails to really do anything with the character) but you really can’t go wrong with talking animals.  The Secret Life of Pets is a cute little crowd pleaser.  It might not make you think in the way that a great Pixar film can make you think but it will definitely make you laugh and leave you feeling good.

It might make you cry, too!  There’s a montage of various owners coming home and being greeted by their pets and it caused my mismatched eyes to tear up because it was just so sweet!

I think I’m going to go give Doc a hug now…