Film Review – The Secret Life of Pets
The Secret Life of Pets
Man, Pixar makes great movies.
No, the new film The Secret Life of Pets isn’t a Pixar movie. In fact, if you were to write a compare and contrast thesis on what makes their films great, this new movie would work as your example of how an animated story can be milquetoast and obvious. It’s not actively bad, just incredibly average. While it might seem unfair to compare all animated movies to essentially the masters of the format, this story is almost a beat-for-beat remake of the original Toy Story. If you just replace Toys with pets, you end up with The Secret Life of Pets.
Louis C.K. is the voice of Max, a happy dog living with his single owner in New York. He is happily devoted to his owner. He has a group of other dog and cat friends who live in the same building who often come over after she leaves to hang out with him. However, one day his owner brings home a large shaggy dog named Duke voiced by Modern Family’s Eric Stonestreet. The new guest makes Max feel threatened and insecure. He tries to sabotage Duke by making a mess in the house so that the new dog will be blamed. So a rivalry starts between the two while they are at the park. They end up getting separated from their home. They run into a group of “flushed” pets in the sewers. These are the misfit, discarded pets led by a cute fluffy bunny with the voice of Kevin Hart. These discarded animals have grown to hate their former owners and mistakenly think Max and Duke are part of their group. Of course, the two dogs are trying their best to get back home.
Doesn’t that plot summary sound vaguely familiar?
Pets talking among themselves when their owners leave works the same as the toys only being animate when the humans aren’t around, Max in place of Woody, Duke in place of Buzz, the flushed animals in place of the Sid’s broken and experimented with toys. The difference here is, this movie is very pedestrian. If there is a joke that might be funny, it will be repeated for sure. For example, as seen in the trailer, one of the funniest images is a snooty poodle that rocks out to speed metal when his owner leaves. Yes, it’s funny once. But they repeat the gag at least 3 times. Kevin Hart’s bunny Snowball is supposed to work like Puss In Boots from the Shrek films. It’s a feisty character disguised as a cute big-eyed furball. However, here they go to that same joke way too often. The pacing makes the whole affair very shallow. All of the jokes are telegraphed.
It’s not that there isn’t a good idea to be exploited here. We all wonder what our pets are really thinking. But instead of something like last year’s stellar Inside Out where you get some sort of insight into the inner workings of a character, here you get the requisite poop jokes and gags about dogs being obsessed with playing fetch. Nothing new is revealed here.
The animation is cute. But again, nothing noteworthy. And seeing it in 3D does very little to enhance the imagery. The voice cast is full of notable comedians: Dana Carvey, Hannibal Buress, Jenny Slate, Steve Coogan, even Albert Brooks cast here as a predatory bird. But even his character seems to be a ripoff of the sharks from Finding Nemo who have to check themselves constantly so as to not eat the hero.
The Secret Life of Pets is aimed at a young demographic. That’s great. But there are many other superior animated films to spend time with. Again, it’s not offensive or bad, just dull.