Movie Review – A Dog’s Journey – Manipulatively Emotional, But The Least Heart-Rending of the Dog Trilogy

Movie Review - A Dog's JourneyI’m relieved to say this heartrending three-movie schmaltz-fest is over. I did the Peetimes for each movie in the semi-trilogy, and was relieved that A Dog’s Journey made me cry the least. By which I mean I cried only three or four times, and these were little teary moments, not the big gulping ugly cries I endured in A Dog’s Purpose and A Dog’s Way Home. (Links go to my reviews. Yes, I’m a masochist and saw all three.)

I was prepared, though. I brought tissues! This marks the first time in ten years of RunPee movie-going that I preemptively (one fan said I should call it ‘pee-emptively’) came prepared to cry. So, if you’re curious, YES, the dog dies in this movie.

Many times. Confused? Read on.

A Dog’s Purpose

In A Dog’s Purpose, Bailey the dog dies and reincarnates. A LOT. I cried a river for  about hours. It was brutal.

A Dog’s Way Home

In A Dog’s Way Home, it’s no longer about Bailey or reincarnation (it’s actually a remake of The Incredible Journey), but the film is considered Bailey-adjacent. Call it a Shared Universe.

That doesn’t let you off the emotional hook, though. All kinds of fresh torture awaits the sensitive dog lover, most tellingly in a devastating scene with Edward James Olmos as a homeless vet who dies alone in the wilderness…with the titular dog chained to his body, a few feet too far from the river to drink. FOR DAYS. Imagine taking your kids to this. Or rather, don’t.

There’s also a scene where the dog gets hit by a car trying to cross a busy freeway…and just lies there…consider this a PSA. I was twitching during that entire sequence, and I think everyone else was too. If you’re a sensitive sort, you can skip the middle movie entirely and just focus on Bailey’s bookend films.

A Dog’s Journey

Which brings us back to A Dog’s Journey. Or, rather, the end of his journey. I’m telling you these things so you’ll be prepared. This isn’t a spoiler — even under the best conditions, dogs don’t live much longer than a decade. This last flick returns to the theme of reincarnation, but somehow is a lot easier on the heart-strings overall. I have to wonder if writer W. Bruce Cameron took pity on his audience and eased up on the heartbreak on purpose.

Should you see a A Dog’s Journey?

Ultimately, A Dog’s Journey is actually a good movie to take your kids to (although you’ll have to explain a few things about dog souls and the Rainbow Bridge).

I’m pleased to say this film is a good evening out — more sentimental than sad. I don’t have a headache from crying, and feel reasonably stable. Can’t expect more than that, right? I mean, it’s a DOG MOVIE. Are there any movies about pets that aren’t tear-jerkers? Even John Wick lost it when his dog was [redacted]. Is it a cooincidence that John Wick Chapter 3 came out today as well…?

Overall, A Dog’s Journey was nicely filmed. The acting (aside from the reliable Quaid) wasn’t very exciting, but the movie is well paced, looks good, and delivers some affably low-key doggy humor. No canine actors were in mortal peril this time, unlike in the first film. The dogs do great work, especially “Molly” — but then, I have a soft spot for beagles.

If you love dogs — and why would you see this kind of thing if you don’t? — you’ll know you’re being emotionally manipulated, but the tale’s more sweet than tragic. Thankfully.

Grade: B-

PS: As per your requests, we are adding an Alert Warning to the Peetimes this film on the RunPee app re: traumatizing dog moments. (But at this point we’re pretty sure you know this about W. Bruce Cameron and his canine oeuvre. This film is the gentlest of the three. Relatively speaking.)

About The Peetimes: This was a fairly simple film to get Peetimes for. Here are 3 evenly spaced Peetimes that don’t feature any big emotional moments or plot points.

There are extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of A Dog’s Journey. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (PG) for thematic content, some peril and rude humor
Genres: Adventure, Comedy, Drama

Is A Dog’s Way Home a Sequel to A Dog’s Purpose?

Movie Review – A Dog’s Purpose

Movie Review – A Dog’s Way Home

Movie Review – The Hustle – Rewatch Dirty Rotten Scoundrels Instead

Movie Review - The HustleAh, The Hustle. It looked so winsome from the trailers. I like Rebel Wilson most of the time, and Anne Hathaway almost all the time. The promising premise: a comedy with two completely different brands of women, running high-stakes scams on rich men in Europe. I was excited to do the Peetimes for this film, expecting an evening of clever fun.

But then it entirely fell down in the execution, with a big old tiresome pratfall.

The Hustle was so very much like Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, but a whole lot less amusing, and oftentimes outright silly. And honestly, I like silly movies when I’m in the mood for it, but The Hustle is the bad kind of silly. I even wrote in my notes (during the last Peetime) “More of the stupid continues for several minutes.”

I’m not saying this is a bad movie. It’s just relentlessly mediocre, often tiresome, frequently awkward, and not as funny as it should be. Sometimes I cringed at the lazy incompetence of the script. I don’t think I laughed out loud once, although I did smile here and there. The plot has a few minor payoffs that do work, especially in the beginning, but by the time the main con is underway, the fails start rolling in.

What else? The Hustle looks good, with sun-drenched sea-side location shots, luxurious outfits, and a boyishly cute male lead (Alex Sharp). There’s good pacing, and some snappy banter. If you want to watch Wilson and Hathaway bicker and snipe at each other for an hour and a half, this might be your film.

Personally, I’d rather re-watch Steve Martin in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. I’d have to view it again to see how it holds up with the passage of the years, but that’s a film I have fond feelings for.

Grade: C-

About The Peetimes: This was an easy movie to find Peetimes. My 3 Peetimes are nicely spaced out, and equally good, although short. If you can hold out for the final Peetime at 1:07, it’s the best one with the least humor.

There are extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of The Hustle. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (PG-13) for crude sexual content and language
Genres: Comedy, Caper/Heist

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels Does It Better: A re-watch review, with comparisons to The Hustle

Quiz – Rebel Wilson – The Newest Funny Gal in Show Business

Movie Review – Long Shot

Movie Review - Long ShotThe only reason to see this movie is for the humor — and for that, there is there is plenty. However, this isn’t R-rated by accident. There’s some raunchy humor, and sometimes just plain raunch. If that’s not your style, then steer clear.

If you’re a political conservative, then be ready for some jabs at pretty much everything you hold dear. You’ve been warned. Although — I don’t want to give anything away — there is a little payback to liberals at one point.

The story is pretty much The American President with a gender swap between the main characters, and exchanging snappy dialog with raunchy humor.

The good thing is, the humor is pretty good, and there’s lots of it. The audience laughed out loud more times than I can count.

Grade: B+

About The Peetimes: We have 3 good Peetimes. I would recommend the 2nd Peetime, because it’s easy to summarize and has very little humor.

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Long Shot. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (R) for strong sexual content, language throughout and some drug use
Genres: Comedy, Romance

Movie Review – UglyDolls – Best for toddlers, but a good message for all children


Movie Review - UglyDollsUgly Dolls is 87 minutes of bright color, almost constant motion, and singing — so much singing — which will make your toddler dizzy with delight. Parents will need to go to the nearest Starbucks for a jolt of caffeine before driving home.

The theme of the movie — learning to love yourself for who you are — is easily understood by the parents and kids over 6. However, the younger set, all the way down to the ‘still in diapers’ stage, won’t care, because they’ll be glued to the movement and color on the screen.

The songs all had messages in their lyrics, albeit with mixed messages. One sings about how if you’re ugly you’re not worthy of love; another has a happier message telling the listener that being ‘different’ only means you are “special.”

Again, it doesn’t matter — toddlers like sounds, not words. For all they care, the Ugly Dolls could be singing about tax reform, as long as it’s loud and strident.

Parents, here’s my suggestion: wait for the video. For under five dollars you can rent this movie and avoid the cost of tickets and the gold plated popcorn. And here’s the bonus; you can sleep through it.

Grade: C-

About The Peetimes: There’s so much color/action/song going on in this short film that I had to use one of the songs as a Peetime. Since the movie is only 87 minutes long, I felt that one Peetime, coming near the midway point in the story, should be adequate.

There are extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of UglyDolls. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (PG) for thematic elements and brief action
Genres: Adventure, Animation, Comedy

Movie Review – Little – Nothing “Big” but a pleasant enough film

Movie Review - LittleLittle was an extremely funny movie. There were a ton of laugh out loud moments that had the whole theater cackling.

It was very predictable, but still enjoyable to watch. The humor overshadowed the predictability. The movie doesn’t really have any standout moments, but I’d definitely recommend it if you’re just wanting some laughs.

Grade: B-

About The Peetimes: Both Peetimes will give you plenty of time to take care of business.

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Little. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (PG-13) for some suggestive content
Genres: Comedy, Fantasy, Romance

Movie Review – Missing Link – Fun, will appeal to all ages

Movie Review - Missing LinkLaika Animated Studios has given the fans another film to add to their collection of ‘Must See’ stop-motion movies.

Hiring Zach Galifianakis as the voice of Susan, the missing link, was a stroke of genius. Even though Susan is a large, frightening creature, Zach provided a voice that took away the fright, and replaced it with a calm, gentle, and innocent demeanor that makes us fall in love with the big guy.

Hugh Jackman and Zoe Saldana brought their ‘A’ game, bringing the two main human characters to life with just right amount of attitude, charisma, and love-ability.

The plot of Missing Link is for Susan to find his own kind of species, which takes him on a global search along with Lionel, a self-proclaimed explorer, and Adelina, a strong determined widow and former girlfriend of Lionel’s. Add all of this together, and you’ve got a fun-filled movie that will appeal to all ages.

Grade: B+

About The Peetimes: From opening credits to the end of the movie, is only 1 hour & 25 minutes, so I made a judgment call and felt that only 1 Peetime was needed.

There are extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Missing Link. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (PG) for action/peril and some mild rude humor
Genres: Adventure, Animation, Comedy

Movie Review – Shazam! – Great for Tweens, Less So for Adults

Movie Review - Shazam!I’ll start by setting the context: I love action/superhero movies, but never read any comics. So, I’m basing this review strictly on how I see the movie, not how it compares to any other body of work.

The Good:

While I definitely didn’t like the movie, I’m sure young boys under 12 years old or so will eat it up.

  • There were plenty of good laughs throughout the movie.
  • I would have given the movie a D+ if it hadn’t been for a LOT of improvement during the last 15 minutes of the film.
  • The villain was done well enough. At least his motivations, and reasons why he had those motivations, were clear enough.
  • There was a nice homage to the movie Big, with Tom Hanks. Did you catch that? 🙂

The Bad:

I didn’t like the movie on a number of levels. The pacing was poor. There was way too much time spent on scenes that just didn’t do anything for the plot or characters.

  • While the young actor who played Billy Batson (Asher Angel) did a fine job, I didn’t think he had the right look. Namely, he doesn’t look anything like a young Zachary Levi, who plays Shazam. One way or another, they should have cast two actors who could realistically look like the same person at different ages.
  • I get it that Shazam’s suit is supposed to be ridiculous, but the cape was so bad as to be distracting, and the muscle suit Zachary Levi wears looks like a high end Halloween suit — not realistic at all.
  • Then there’s the cartoonish action: like holding a bus up by the windshield.
  • Lastly, there’s a 1990s TV show quality to the production. I’m not talking about the CGI, which was adequate, but the filming and pacing. It just felt like a TV episode. Not a cinematic experience.

In short, it’s just another adequate DC production that labors to impress, then falls short.

Grade: C

About The Peetimes: Vera and I independently agreed on all 3 Peetimes, so we’re confident these are as good as they can be. The 1st Peetime is only for Emergencies, because there’s an important scene shortly after it ends. The 2nd Peetime is Recommended. You won’t miss any good humor or action. The 3rd Peetime is okay, but has a lot of hero/villain conversation.

There are extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Shazam! (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (PG-13) for intense sequences of action, language, and suggestive material
Genres: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Superhero, Tweens

Is Shazam Part of the DC Universe or a Stand-Alone Film? How Shazam Could Fix the DCEU

A Happy Shazam Review – A delightful time in the DC universe (for once)

Do you know what SHAZAM! Stands For?

Movie Review – The Beach Bum – A Bum Deal (If You’re Not Actually High)

Movie Review - The Beach Bum
Beaches, boobies, blunts, and a white cat. Also, a foot.

I’m still trying to figure out if any plot happened in this pet project by Matthew McConaughey, but now fully understand why most theaters didn’t play it. Beach Bum is an hour and a half of watching someone else’s party. There are huge doobies and naked boobies, and I guess that’s enough for sitting back yourself with a lit blunt and melding into the stream of smoke, sex, and sunsets.

The best scene has sharks, a foot, and a hat, and I won’t spoil that further for any amount of weed. Ask anyone what happened in Beach Bum and this is the part they’ll remember.

Everything else is a haze.

Is this a cautionary tale? Someone’s dream drug life to drool over?

I liked the white kitty.

I’m giving Beach Bum the benefit of the doubt by a plus symbol on my D grade, because if you loved The Dude (something I missed seeing while growing up), then you might consider it a sort of sequel. I heard someone in the theater say that, and I know The Dude is beloved. Don’t expect much philosophy here. But Jimmy Buffet appears, and I’ve always been a Parrothead. Yet I still can’t make myself give this anything close to a C. D+ it is.

For what it’s worth: to see a legit funny movie showcasing a good time of men partying, just rewatch The Hang Over again.

I really have to stop reviewing Beach Bum before I talk myself into dropping the letter grade. If you loved Beach Bum, I’m ready to be educated. Yell at me in the comments below. 🙂

Grade: D+

About The Peetimes: This was a easy movie to make Peetimes for, as it’s a series of party scenes, loosely connected by plot. I added 2 good Peetimes tonight, and might add an earlier one tomorrow.

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of The Beach Bum. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (R) for pervasive drug and alcohol use, language throughout, nudity and some strong sexual content
Genres: Comedy

Review: The Hangover

Movie Review – Wonder Park

Movie Review - Wonder ParkI’ve just spent half an hour reading several different reviews for Wonder Park and I just have to laugh, maybe hysterically laugh, at the verbosity spewed forth by the well paid critics.

It’s a toddler movie! Children care nothing about the movie’s conceptual resemblance to Inside Out. And a visual and aural cacophony of frenzied action sequences, is exactly what delights your children.  Loud sounds, and plenty of moving color and light, keep their attention. And the parents aren’t really watching the movie, they have their entertainment right there in their hands. The mother next to me played Solitaire all through the movie. They don’t care either.

All that being said, I enjoyed Wonder Park just fine. Children under eight — and old women with spotty short term memories — will have fun.

I felt that the animation was well done and there were a few catchy little songs that were pleasant. This film won’t win any Oscars, but who cares, the Oscars are dying anyway.

Grade: B

About The Peetimes: This was a short movie filled with plenty of action and dialog, making it just a little difficult getting good Peetimes. I have 2, spaced almost 20 minutes apart, and both will serve you well — so let your bladder decide.

There are extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Wonder Park. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (PG) for some mild thematic elements and action
Genres: Adventure, Animation, Comedy

Movie Review – Fighting with My Family – Pleasant, Non-Demanding Fun

Movie Review - Fighting with My FamilyFighting with my Family is a pleasant little true-life-based sporting movie leaving you feeling a little happier than when you went in.

It’s not about Earth-shattering events or anything particularly profound for humanity, and it doesn’t need to be. It’s a small and surprisingly charming story: a young woman gets plucked out of obscurity in the UK to train for the big leagues of US WWE Diva wrestling. Cue the nominally familiar underdog narrative…but it works.

The best part of the movie is how it’s grounded by a loving, oddball wrestling family. The rough-n-tough parents seem intimidating at first, until you realize how sweetly kind these people are, and how much they care for each other.

The comedy is never over the top: you buy the reality of these people. Kudos to the acting and directing team for making this tiny corner of history so palatable — and relatable.

I also appreciated the brother’s side-tale of changing the lives of underprivileged youngsters in his neighborhood, via instruction and a strong sense of community. (The blind wrestling teen was a highlight, and I could have watched an entire movie about him. Somebody make this film happen.)

In any case, Fighting With My Family is almost entirely about the daughter. Paige’s story is a quite a bit like the blockbuster scenario of Rocky — just younger, female, and on a different scale. Also, this series of events really happened. 🙂 We get a young “buck” with a lot of raw potential, who gets tested too far, and lets her coach and family down. She finds her “Eye of the Tiger”and gets serious about pursuing a WWE championship goal. This isn’t brand new material, right? But the movie makes it fresh.

Something I appreciated was Paige’s clear joy in the sport itself. And make no mistake, the movie makes pro wrestling look exhausting, but also super fun. Now I want to be tossed around a ring, bounce off the bungies, and leap over people who know when to duck (yet know how to make it look real). I had no idea the whole pro wrestling scene was so playful and adventurous. There are scenes where pros decide whether to take random PR stunts in stride, like being thumped on a bed of thumbtacks, to getting smacked in the head with a garbage can lid. If you can take it, it adds to the fun, and everybody gets paid. Even The Rock is thankful for someone who took a spectacularly painful fall to make him look good (in a really satisfying small scene that’s easy to miss if you aren’t paying attention).

However. One thing you should know before you go: The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) isn’t in this film very much — he bookends the plot. But he shouldn’t be the center of this film. It’s not his story. As he was involved in these real events — creating this film was his passion project — he takes up just as much visual space as he should. It works. I hope it went down in reality just like this.

Still. This is THE ROCK, and he’s got quite a WWE legacy before he became a movie star. His opening “mentoring’ scene is NOT to be missed. It’s priceless and I’m still smiling over it. Don’t run to the toilet then…use our Peetimes. 🙂

Grade: B

About The Peetimes: This was an easy film to find Peetimes for. I won’t let you miss any moment The Rock appears, or any of the best fighting action. I recommend the 2nd Peetime if you can manage it, but all are fine.

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Fighting with My Family. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (PG-13) for crude and sexual material, language throughout, some violence and drug content

Genres: Action, Biography, Comedy, Drama, Sport, True life story


 

More Movies Starring The Rock: 

Quiz – The Rock AKA Dwayne Johnson – Action Hero with Surprising Range

Movie Review – Jumanji 2: Welcome to the Jungle

Movie Review – The Fate of the Furious

Movie Review – Skyscraper

San Andreas – movie review

Movie Review – The Tooth Fairy