The holidays are prime movie-watching time, so here is PETA’s list of the good, the not-so-bad-but-could-be-better, and the downright ugly films for animals of 2008.
Marley and Me
Scheduled for release this Christmas, PETA got a sneak peek at this funny and touching movie in which the Grogans (played by Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston) love, care and stick with their dog, Marley, through tipped-over tables, shredded couches, eaten necklaces, and all of Marley’s hilarious-but-naughty escapades. Why do we give this movie “two very enthusiastic paws up”? The Grogans’ dedication to Marley reminds audiences that
adding an animal to the family means making a lifetime commitment to treating the animal like a family member—even when the going gets tough. We’re also psyched that the Grogans adopt Marley from a rescue group instead of buying a puppy from a breeder or pet store.
In theaters now, this computer-animated movie follows the adventures of Bolt (voiced by John Travolta), the superhero canine co-star in a hit action TV series also featuring his loving guardian, Penny (voiced by Miley Cyrus). Here’s the run-down (no spoilers, I promise): Bolt doesn’t know that he’s on a show, so when Penny’s character gets kidnapped he thinks it’s the real deal. He sets out to rescue her with the help of a cat named Mittens and a hamster named Rhino, and mayhem ensues—until the audience is treated to a warm and fuzzy animal-friendly ending.
Why do we dig this Disney doggy flick? As Bolt learns the joys of playing fetch, hanging his head out car windows and doing all the other dog behaviors he’s been missing out on, the message is clear: Animals would never choose to become entertainers. Forced into the spotlight and deprived of everything that is natural and important to them, animals have no business in show business. Dogs would much rather play in the yard than perform tricks on a TV or film set. Just ask Bolt.
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
Now available on DVD, this dazzling Disney fantasy sends the four Pevensie kids back to Narnia to help Prince Caspian fight for his throne. The talking lion and swashbuckling mice are extra nice thanks to the film’s ingenious use of computer-generated imaging (CGI). We give Narnia “two animatronic paws up” for using cutting-edge technological advancements to replace live animals in front of the camera. With the impressive realism and precise results of CGI, puppetry, costumes, and animatronics, there is no longer any reason to subject animals to a lifetime of misery and abuse.
The Dark Knight
Granted, Batman looks pretty “Ka-Pow!” in his pleather crime-fighting costume, but when did the Caped Crusader turn into a canine hater? We’re not too happy that the movie portrays dogs as aggressive attack animals or that Batman beats them up during a fight. We do however give props to the film’s creators for having awesome FX masters Animal Makers create ultra-realistic animatronic dogs for the scene. For that, we applaud The Dark Knight for creating movie magic without making real animals suffer.
After all, the showbiz life is anything but cushy for animal “actors.” Whether by confining animals to small cages, forcing them to perform out of fear, transporting them long distances in cramped trailers, exposing them to extreme conditions, or separating families, the film industry causes animals to suffer. Whistleblowers on movie sets continue to report that terrified animals are kept in substandard conditions and are highly stressed by the noise and lights—and that animals are often injured or killed during filming.
Beverly Hills Chihuahua
What’s our gripe with Beverly Hills Chihuahua? It’s the whole “101 Dalmatians” effect, only this time it was Chihuahuas. After the release of the live-action version of “101 Dalmatians” and its sequel, the number of Dalmatians in U.S. animal shelters spiked. After seeing movies featuring specific breeds of dogs, impressionable viewers often decide to buy look-alike dogs on impulse—with no knowledge of the time, energy, and commitment involved in having an animal companion. Well of course, now shelters are bursting with Chihuahuas.
OK, here’s our praise: Disney has included a disclaimer on its Web site and at the end of the film about the lifelong responsibility of having an animal companion. Quite impressively, they even encourage people to adopt rather than purchase an animal.
Madagascar: Escape 2 AfricaOur praise: This sequel shows how happy the members of the madcap menagerie of former zoo animals are to get back to their roots when they’re stranded in Africa. Our gripe: They still keep trying to get back to their zoo! I know that it’s animated, so you have to have some suspension of disbelief, but come on! No real animal ever wants to be held in captivity. Animals in zoos are confined to cramped, barren enclosures that are nothing like their natural habitats. They suffer from extremely crowded conditions, poor nutrition, and mind-numbing monotony. Does that sound like a place that you’d keep trying to get back to?
Just like pretty much everyone else in the world, we give this live-action movie adaptation of the classic animated television series Speed Racer “two opposable thumbs way down.” When PETA learned that real chimpanzees were to play the part of Chim Chim, we immediately wrote to the producers and Warner Bros. urging them to use CGI or animatronics instead. It was a no-go. Choosing to take the low road, they went through with using real chimpanzees. What happened? In addition to an incident in which one of the chimpanzees bit a stand-in actor, we learned that a monitor with the American Humane Association witnessed animal trainer Greg Lille “in an uncontrolled impulse, hit [a] chimpanzee.”
The events that occurred on the set of Speed Racer perfectly illustrate the entertainment industry’s abusive treatment of exotic animals. To train great apes to perform, trainers forcibly remove them from their mothers when the animals are just infants, train them by beating, kicking, and punching them, and callously discard them to roadside zoos when they are too old and strong to handle (which occurs at age 8, and great apes live to be over 60 years old).
You Don’t Mess With the Zohan
When you mess with the animals, you mess with the PETA. We wrote to Adam Sandler after receiving numerous complaints about several troubling scenes in this film—including one in which Zohan uses a cat as a hacky sack and another scene in which a man uses a cow as a punching bag. The way this hair-brained movie uses animals in cruel jokes is anything but harmless and could encourage deadly “copycat” actions. Every day, our cruelty caseworkers deal with people who mimic scenes just like these from movies and television. It’s imperative that young people develop empathy for all beings and learn that might doesn’t make right.
When we heard that a bear was going to be part of the cast of this b-ball bomb, we wrote to Will Farrell to inform him of the cruelty involved in forcing animals to perform and to ask him to keep live animals out of his films. Perhaps he had his Old School “ear muffs” on, because our words fell on deaf ears. Not only did Semi-Pro feature a live bear (a bear named Rocky who attacked and killed his trainer only months later), it also encouraged stupid people to do stupid stunts with live animals. This just goes to show that the only hairy creature in Will Ferrell movies should be Will Ferrell.
Written by Amy Elizabeth