Wednesday, July 13, 2016

[Review] The Secret Life of Pets

Illumination Entertainment is the animation company responsible for the great (and under-appreciated) Despicable Me, as well as the rampant and extremely polarizing topic Minions. Next up is The Secret Life of Pets, a raucous tale about our domesticated furball friends.

Max (voiced by Louis C.K.) is a perfectly content Jack Russell Terrier living with his loving owner Katie (Ellie Kemper "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt") in a Central Park apartment. Things get shaken up when Katie brings home a scruffy stray named Duke (Eric Stonestreet). Max gets jealous and a rivalry forms as Duke mops himself all over Max's territory. One day, Max and Duke are unleashed (insert "Who let the dogs out?" joke), and after a close call with animal control and a run-in with a gang led by a feisty bunny (Kevin Hart), the two must work together to find their way home--along with some help from their neighbors (Jenny Slate, Hannibal Buress, Lake Bell & more).

If the premise seems a lot like a beat-for-beat version of Toy Story but with pets (and obviously not as good), that's because it is--there's even a nifty wiener dog involved! The solid voice cast isn't enough to elevate this beyond a blatantly rehashed, by-the-numbers journey of animal escapades, culminating in another wild but uninspired car chase with the stench of squandered opportunities.

The film is at its most endearing when it keenly observes the odd quirks of cats and dogs (especially if you have pets, you'll find yourself thinking "Yep."). There's also an amusing montage near the beginning that imagines what our pets do when we leave--whether it's actively waiting by the door for 8 hours straight, terrorizing the house, or watching soap operas. Even though the film eventually leaves its homey subtleties behind, a few good jokes are scattered along the way. At one point Max and Duke end up in a sewer of 'Flushed Pets' and a random sea monkey exclaims, "It's not our fault we don't look like the advertisement!"

Given that this is an animated film about pets, you'd think there would be plenty of room for heart and emotion, but aside from a slightly poignant backstory about Duke, the story never really goes there. Sure, The Secret Life of Pets is fun and cute at times, but it's ultimately dispensable and it pales in comparison to other kid-friendly films from this year like Zootopia and Finding Dory.

If you thought this movie would be an escape from the Minions, you thought wrong.

( 6.5/10 )


  1. My son picked this one over Finding Dory. Sigh
    The movie failed in so many ways.
    It wasn't terrible but you are right it doesn't compete with other animated films this year. It wasn't as bad as Angry Birds lol. I liked the last ten minutes of the film it was then that it showed some heart.

    1. Yeah, I liked the last 10 minutes too. Unfortunately the rest was just too run-of-the-mill. But yeah, still better than Angry Birds.

  2. Lol didn't have to try too hard to be better than angry birds.