Your Mommy Kills Animals Movie Review

In the first few minutes of the shrewdly named Your Mommy Kills Animals, we're told the U.S. government named the animal rights movement the #1 domestic terrorist threat in 2005. We spend the rest of the documentary determining whether that's a legitimate assessment or a desperate strategy.

If you've never pegged the animal rights universe as painfully complicated, think again. Director Curt Johnson, Oscar-winning producer of the 2002 short Thoth, stirs a whirlwind of history, opinions, and first-person footage that's the most accessible, thorough chronicle of animal rights ever put to film.

The Animal Liberation Front. The SHAC 7. PETA. They're all covered here, and Johnson makes no apologies for leaving the uninitiated in a ball of confusion. These groups' approaches -- and sometimes extreme tactics -- are wildly diverse, and often contradictory. And that's the point. Johnson slyly asks: When well-meaning activists feel their way is the only way, when does ego and self-preservation take over?

One group feels animals should be treated with the same moral consistency that protects humans, and that it's noble to do whatever is necessary to ensure that. Another believes euthanasia is preferred to homelessness. The entire movement seems full of political jockeying, power plays, and occasional hypocrisy. Somewhere in the middle beat hearts of courage and sincerity. Somewhere on the outside is a suspicious U.S. government.

It's impossible to view Your Mommy Kills Animals without seeing it as a greater metaphor for all extremist activism. We see hardcore groups like the SHAC 7 conduct protests with enormous aggression and antagonism, and find their demands get met. Does that mean their approach is most effective? It's difficult to form an opinion when a movement's most vocal members seem obsessed. Part of you sympathizes deeply with their courage, especially when Johnson includes unbelievably horrific images of abused animals; and part of you wants to smack some of them for acting like self-absorbed little twits.

In one instance captured by Johnson's crew, a small group of activists verbally attack an older woman on the NYC subway, nailing her for wearing fur. The phrase spat at this women and similar offenders is usually "you fucking pervert." When another subway rider comes to the woman's rescue, he asks the man behind the camera what he thinks. We never really find out.

But Johnson's documentary goes into deep enough detail to inquire, for instance, why PETA is so popular with today's celebrities. Access to stars like Jessica Biel, James Cromwell, and Katherine Heigl help spice up the proceedings, especially when the film is weighed down by an over-reliance on talking heads. Johnson is smart enough, though, to include on-camera characters like Shane and Sia Barbi -- yes, the famed Barbi twins -- whose activism sits somewhere between admirably pragmatic and downright dopey.

One of the greatest summaries of the ongoing issues is provided by a gentleman who runs a ranch-style rescue shelter. In professing his love and respect for animals, he points to his pens and calls the residents "my kids." And in acknowledging the same affection of the many divided factions, he states, "And no one wants to be told how to raise their kids." That's a damn good nutshell.

For those interested in the origin of the title: It's the name of a PETA-released comic book allegedly distributed to kids. In true propagandist form, it contains some disturbing visuals that seem specifically aimed at raising controversy. I'm sure they do. And I wouldn't be surprised if this complex documentary does as well.

Man, that's ruff.

Cast & Crew

Director : Curt Johnson

Producer : Curt Johnson

Starring : David Martosko, Maggie McGuane, Kevin Kjonaas, Josh Harper, Shane Barbi, Sia Barbi, , , , , , , , Peta Hellard, , P.J. O'Rourke, , ,

Comments

Your Mommy Kills Animals Rating

" Good "

Rating: R, 2007

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