New films out this week: reviews of Secret Life of Pets and Elvis Nixon

 
James Luxford
Kevin Spacey and Michael Shannon as the President and the King

Elvis Nixon | Dir. Liza Johnson | ★★★

A comedy about the real life meeting between Presley (Michael Shannon) and Nixon (Kevin Spacey) that resulted in the US National Archive's most requested photograph.

The film makes no bones of the fact that this is a mostly fictional portrayal of how their meeting transpired, and so aims to be funny rather than informative.

Shannon couldn't look or sound less like The King if he tried, but carries himself with a kooky swagger that makes him easy to accept.

He has an excellent match in Spacey, whose Nixon is mostly caricature but entertaining nonetheless as he bristles against his eccentric co-star.

No awards for historical accuracy, but provided you know that this is all for laughs, the weirdness is enjoyable.

Secret Life of Pets | Dirs. Chris Renaud, Yarrow Cheney | ★★★

This 'Toy Story with Animals' follows a pampered pooch (voiced by Lois C.K.) as he is unwittingly stranded on the streets of Manhattan with his owner's new dog.

This familiar formula is given a new twist by the cracking cast which includes Kevin Hart (playing a rabbit), Ellie Kemper and our own Steve Coogan, who all bring out the personalities in their four legged personas.

That, along with the non-stop barrage of pretty amusing slapstick will raise a smile at the very least, especially among younger viewers.

Like Despicable Me, The Secret Life of Pets wobbles when any emotional weight is needed, but like an energetic puppy it wins you over with boundless energy and an eagerness to please.

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