Sunday, July 24, 2016

Review! The Secret Life of Pets

The_Secret_Life_of_Pets_posterRuntime: 90 minutes

Release date: July 8, 2016

Budget: $75 million


Max (Louis C.K.) is a spoiled terrier who enjoys a comfortable life in a New York building until his owner adopts Duke, a giant and unruly canine. During their walk outside, they encounter a group of ferocious alley cats and wind up in a truck that's bound for the pound. Luckily, a rebellious bunny named Snowball swoops in to save the doggy duo from captivity. In exchange, Snowball demands that Max and Duke join his gang of abandoned pets on a mission against the humans who've done them wrong.


The first teaser trailer that I saw for The Secret Life of Pets was so adorable that it piqued my interest. Even so, it wasn’t enough to make me want to see it. With so many animated movies coming out each year I have to be a bit more selective since my wallet isn’t as fat as it used to be and movies have sure gone up in price. Nonetheless, my Dad was really excited to see this movie so it moved from my “probably won’t see” list to my “muse see” list. The second trailer wasn’t very interesting or funny. The story seems pretty standard and I didn’t find the humor especially humorous. I would’ve been okay waiting for the DVD release or for it to show on TV. Regardless, my Dad wants to see it so I want to see it too.

The first teaser trailer

The second trailer

My one hold out for this movie is that Illumination is behind it. Despicable Me and Despicable Me 2 were so good and so funny. Those two movies had endearing characters and very good stories. Hopefully, The Secret Life of Pets is just as good.

Unfortunately, I am going to have to give this movie a negative review. I didn’t find any of the characters endearing, the plot lacked something—mainly an actual plot, and the humor was humorless. Well, I may be exaggerating a bit. I actually think it was a fun movie…for kids, but not really a spectacular movie for adults. Keeping that in mind, I feel it is important to realize that this movie was actually made for kids. With Disney producing movies that are great fun for both kids and adults alike, I’ve probably been judging all animated movies a lot harder than I should be.

[caption id="attachment_1340" align="alignright" width="300"]About half of the characters. This is already a large character cast. About half of the characters. This is already a large character cast.[/caption]

First, let’s talk about the characters. I didn’t find the characters endearing mostly because I felt they were shallowly characterized. One of the main reasons for that is there are just too many characters. For the bulk of the movie there are two plotlines which then converge into one near the end of the film. In the first plotline, Max and Duke are lost in the city and run afoul of the “The Flushed Pets,” human hating animals who have been abandoned by their owners, and the second plotline is Gidget leading a group of pets to save Max. With such a large cast, two opposing storylines, and 90 minutes there really isn’t enough time to spend on developing all of the characters. Many characters were completely unnecessary to the story and a few were only important for 5-10 minutes of the movies. It’s a classic example of quantity over quality. There only seems to be that many characters for marketing purposes. Get ready to collect all the plushes!

One thing I did like about the characters was their designs. I found Max to be a bit boring in character design, but I liked Gidget and Chloe. Especially Chloe. She was so adorable! Unfortunately, the voice actress for Chloe was a bit bland, but Jenny Slate did a stupendous job with Gidget. For the first 20 minutes of the movie I kept trying to figure out where I had heard that voice before and eventually it hit me—that’s the voice for Mayor Bellweather from Zootopia! It’s a very distinctive voice and I guess it goes best with cute animals, as both Gidget and Mayor Bellweather are adorable!

[caption id="attachment_1341" align="aligncenter" width="714"]Gidget (left) and Chloe (right) Gidget (left) and Chloe (right)[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1352" align="alignleft" width="300"]Max (small dog) and Duke (large dog) Max (small dog) and Duke (large dog)[/caption]

Next up, the plot. This was probably the aspect of the movie that I was most disappointed in. I couldn’t pinpoint any message throughout the movie and many of the scenes felt like they still needed to be fleshed out. In the end there wasn’t really a “moral of the story.” There were some scenes that I just couldn’t understand why they were there. For example the side plot with Duke’s previous owner was completely pointless. Why in the world was that included? It was odd and wasn’t ever fully explored. It brought out some hostile feelings from Duke and he and Max fight again, but everything felt surface level. When Duke was arguing with Max I didn’t really feel anything from the characters. For many scenes in the film I felt that way. It was disappointing to say the least.

[caption id="attachment_1353" align="alignright" width="300"]Snowball and some of The Flushed Pets Snowball and some of The Flushed Pets[/caption]

The last thing is the humor. My expectation of the humor was incredibly high, especially since this movie was done by the same people who did the Despicable Me movies. Those two movies were absolutely hilarious! Unfortunately, this movie let me down in that respect as well. A lot of the humor was incredibly juvenile. There were a lot of potty humor jokes and the humor where they tried to catch you off guard. For example, the cute little bunny, Snowball, has a deep voice with a gangster personality. It’s an overdone sort of thing and it’s pretty obvious that is what’s going to happen therefore taking the humor away. There were a few scenes I laughed out loud at, but they were few and far in between.

Overall, this is a family friendly movie young kids will likely enjoy, but the parents will probably be much less entertained. There just isn’t really much depth with both the plot and the characters. This movie doesn’t provoke any thoughts nor does it seem to have any sort of “moral of the story,” so to speak. The highlight of this movie is by far the scenes that were presented in the teaser trailer, which lends to a disappointing initial viewing. Harmless and cute, seeing this movie may be a fun family outing, but I can’t consider this a must-see and it’s unlikely that I will re-watch this film anytime in the near future.

1 comment:

  1. Ooooh, a negative review. I agree though. Although it looked terrific (as most animated CGI films do), it wasn't very funny, the plot was wire-thin, the characters weren't especially endearing (maybe Chloe and that's about it), and there wasn't much of anything in the way of satisfying character growth (even though you really see the potential in the beginning).

    It played more like an episode of That's So Raven than a movie proper with the whole A-plot/B-plot structure and thin story.

    Overall, meh.