Who's In It: Neil Patrick Harris, Jayma Mays, Hank Azaria, Sofia Vergara, Tim Gunn, the voices of Jonathan Winters, Katy Perry, Alan Cumming, Fred Armisen, George Lopez, Anton Yelchin, Kenan Thompson, Jeff Foxworthy, John Oliver, Wolfgang Puck, Paul Reubens, Tom Kane
The Basics: Neil Patrick Harris is an ad executive and Jayma Mays his pregnant wife. Neil works for Sofia Vergara, a Devil Wears Prada-like ladyboss whose managerial style involves threatening to fire him every time she's on screen. Tim Gunn is in it, too. He's playing what is either the Halloween costume version of himself or else he's playing Sofia Vergara's extreme-gay-makeover assistant, it's hard to tell. And he says "Make it work!" at one point but I forget to whom. Neil has to please Sofia with an ad campaign and come to terms with his inner ambivalence and anxiety over the prospect of impending fatherhood. This story will captivate children everywhere.
What's The Deal: If you've ever visited the Internet site Garfield Minus Garfield (an ongoing conceptual prank in which Garfield the cat is erased from every panel of the comic, leaving nothing but his owner Jon to conduct spooky monologues about the various problems in his life) or that other site where they remove the fourth panel punchline from the most existentially terrifying Peanuts strips, you'll appreciate this movie as the cry for help it is. Imagine all the charmless, humorless bits of blue visual code obliterated and it becomes a horror film about the double-bind trap of employment and parenthood. Your kids are bleeping right over the grown-uppy bits themselves; to them it's a movie about some little creatures and a bad man in a cloak who abuses his pet cat all the time, so why shouldn't you be allowed the same personalized reading?
Not Since That Amazing Guitar Hero Sequence In Couples Retreat: There has never, maybe in the history of cinema, outside of Mac and Me and the recent Morgan Spurlock documentary Pom Wonderful Presents the Greatest Movie Ever Sold, been a film this inundated with product placement. Not only is there an extended Guitar Hero sequence that hip-hop-izes the "la la la" Smurf song, but every sort of toy, food, restaurant and Sony product that exists in the world is lovingly placed in or behind the action. There's even a shot of children stampeding the Smurfs in the hope that they are, in fact, toys to be bought. After a while it's like the air you breathe but can't see. I hope someone out there makes a project of counting up all the logos and brand names. It won't be me. But someone.
People For The Ethical Treatment Of Digital Animals: There's a real cat credited in the film, but that animal has been clearly used as a template for animation because Gargamel (Azaria) does nothing but hurl the creature into space and against walls, Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote-style. If you're the parent of a toddler and you also share your home with any kind of small animal you might consider emphasizing that this is a cartoon and that we should never treat the kitty this way in real life. Otherwise your pets are doomed.