The Secret Life of Pets

The quiet life of a terrier named Max is upended when his owner takes in Duke, a stray whom Max instantly dislikes.

 

Director: Chris Renaud, Yarrow Cheney

Starring: Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart, Ellie Kemper, Lake Bell, Jenny Slate, Bobby Moynihan, Hannibal Burress, Albert Brooks, Dana Carvey, Steve Coogan

Rated: PG (action and some rude humor)

 

The Secret Life of Pets

By Matt Greene

The Secret Life of Pets is a modern kid’s film. That means it will be super energetic, desperately cute, and often funny. That also means, unless it’s preempted by a bouncing desk lamp, it will most likely be nothing more than white noise to pass the time in an air conditioned building full of screaming children and sleepless parents. Illumination Studios (creators of the god-awful Minions) may be the main culprit of this type of derivative drivel, and based on the presentation of their products through cultural ubiquity and Pixar-like universe meta-referencing, they are undeservedly proud of what they’ve done.

Their latest, Pets follows NYC house-pet Max (voiced very well by Louis CK) who, joined by a mismatched group of animals, goes on a series of misadventures to try and make it back to his owner. In many senses, it’s better than what Illumination has done so far. Pets’ observational humor uses the reality of pet / human behavior to really nice effect. Unfortunately, a large part of the story is spent on less down-to-earth story arcs in order to fill a half-wit plot, bogging down in ill-timed sentimentality, frustratingly blatant 3D and formulaic morals.

That mechanical storytelling manipulation is its most glaring problem. Otherwise, there is some really great stuff here. The montages in the individual pet’s homes are irrepressibly smile-inducing, the score is a bouncy jazz-based good-time, and there’s a hot dog segment set to a Grease song that I totally loved. However, if you’ve seen Zootopia, Toy Story, Bolt, Up, Finding Nemo or even Dory, then there is nothing new here for you but a Disney-Pixar-knockoff without the sophistication.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

 

The Secret Life of Pets

By Cole Schneider

“The Secret Life of Pets” is not a good movie, but if you’re insistent on checking it out all you need to do is simply close your eyes and imagine “Toy Story” but with animals instead of toys, generic humor instead of world-specific cleverness, a familiar story in place of ingenuity, and characters you would regret meeting if they weren’t so easy to forget in place of Woody, Buzz and the gang then you can probably see a close enough approximation of “The Secret Life of Pets” without spending $10. If you need to see the real thing on the big screen, that’s cool too. It’s not terrible; it’s just so bland.

The lifeless adventure follows a dog named Max on an adventure through New York City after his idyllic life with his owner is upended by the arrival of a new roommate—a big mastiff-sized dog named Duke. Soon they run into Snowball, a bunny who rules the underworld of rejected pets and is looking to revolt against the ‘upper-class’ animals, and the movie turns into an extended chase sequence. On another front Gidget, a Pomeranian with a crush on Max leads the neighborhood search party.

It’s only been a couple days since I watched “The Secret Life of Pets” and I had already forgotten most of that before Google reminded me. Nonetheless, we’ve all seen more loathsome titles. As much as it’s worse than “Toy Story”, it’s better than other animated NYC pet movies like “Oliver’s Company”.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

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