The delightfully offbeat premise of “Unleashed” is without question the film’s greatest strength. This ultimate chick flick tells the story of San Francisco app designer Emma (Kate Micucci) who, on the heels of a big breakup, adopts a loyal golden retriever Summit (Steve Howey) and independent-minded cat Ajax (Justin Chatwin). A full moon causes a mystical event that transforms both pets into hunky men. Ajax and Summit become the perfect boyfriend material, and both begin to woo their human lady in an attempt to move back into their apartment.
Don’t let the story fool you: this movie is nowhere near as good as it sounds on paper, and it’s certainly not good enough for a theatrical release. There are some good yet predictable laughs (as the dog-man chases balls and fetches coffee while the cat-man hisses when angry and rapidly licks water out of glasses), but a majority of the writing is disjointed and uninspired. So much more could’ve been done with this material.
Much of the acting is ridiculously exaggerated and completely over the top. Micucci is a great choice for the lead role because she’s just so likeable, with boatloads of weird eccentricity and loony qualities. Not familiar with her work? She’s an even more offbeat version of Zooey Deschanel. Chatwin nails much of the diva, cat-like behavior he’s tasked with imitating, and the ever enjoyable Howey plays the same charming lunkhead that made him a sitcom star in the early 2000s on “Reba.” Although Illeana Douglas‘ horrific display of bad acting comes close, the worst performance in the film by far comes from Sean Astin, who looks more like a startled deer in the headlights than a professional actor. His panicked, cringe-worthy performance greatly detracts from every scene that he swiftly proceeds to ruin.
I wish this material had fallen into the hands of a more talented director (instead of Finn Taylor, who handles his directorial duties with an astonishing display of ineptitude) and a more capable cast, because I think this could’ve been a real winner — and maybe even a cult classic. Instead, it’s destined to be a D-list Redbox rental and spend most of its short shelf life touring the small-scale film festival circuit.
THIS FILM WAS SCREENED AND REVIEWED AT THE 2016 NAPA VALLEY FILM FESTIVAL
Matt was unavailable for review.