Oct 15, 2018

[Movies] The Secret Life of Pets (2016) Review

There are those movies whose trailers feel like they're tailor-made to appeal to a wider audience but also feel "too good" such that you can't help but suspect that the trailer features all the best bits of the movie. This feels especially true when it comes to animated features that primarily target kids but feel obligated to throw in as much fun stuff for adults that it can when it comes to the promotional materials for the movie.

The Secret Life of Pets really feels like one of those movies. It doesn't necessarily mean that it's a bad movie right off the bat, but it isn't quite as amazing as you'd like for it to be. The stuff that made the trailer so funny didn't necessarily define the greater narrative of the movie.

The actual story felt very different from the scenario of the trailer as this was less about what pets do at home while their owners are off at work but instead a whole separate adventure that just happens to take place while the pet owners are away. It sounds very similar but seriously, it's a different story.

Synopsis: The Secret Life of Pets is a 2016 animated comedy movie directed by Chris Renaud. The screenplay was written by Brian Lynch, Cinco Paul, and Ken Daurio.

Max (Louis C.K.) lives a happy life with his owner Katie (Ellie Kemper) in a modest apartment in Manhattan. When she's out for work he hangs with his apartment crew consisting of Chloe the cat (Lake Bell), Mel the pug (Bobby Moynihan), Buddy the dachshund, and Sweet Pea the budgerigar (Tara Strong). But his daily bliss gets thrown off-kilter when Katie adopts Duke (Eric Stonestreet), who is a much larger mongrel that she had rescued from the pound. And naturally Max starts to feel the pinch of Katie dividing her attention between the two of them.

So Max tries to leave Duke outside in the neighborhood so he won't find his way home, however they are instead attacked by some cats who manage to cut off their collars. And thus Animal Control comes along to catch them only for them to narrowly escape with the help of an unusual abandoned pet group known as "The Flushed Pets". Now they need to try to blend in first among pet-hating humans before they can figure out how to find their way back home while avoiding detection by the dog catchers.

What I Liked: The movie has a generous amount of funny bits that act as little comedy sketches in the middle of the narrative. Some take a bit of setup while others are really just quick sight gags, but they can feel totally worth it when you catch them. And I'll admit that I'm the sort of movie-goer for lives for those quick bits as they come along and liven things up.

The whole premise of this underground group for abandoned pets was a great one and most of the best jokes what something to do with the crew and their antics. I may not have been the biggest fan of Snowball the Rabbit as voiced by Kevin Hart, but on the whole they did some crazy funny things.

What Could Have Been Better: It's hard to see how this movie truly becomes a "buddy comedy" as it is often described as it never feels like enough happens for Max and Duke to really bond apart from the fact that Duke seems to like everyone and thus Max's dislike for him is totally lost on him. And thus it's really about Max being less douchey by the end instead of things feeling like some major transformation really happened.

The other bit about the always wild party at the home of Pops the basset hound (Dana Carvey) made for great trailer material but never really worked out that well beyond that. It was such a throwaway bit as in the end Pops just joins the others in their search for Max and Duke despite him being in a doggie wheelchair and all. Not sure why we had to go that convoluted route.

TL;DR: The Secret Life of Pets is a funny enough movie for kids but it's not necessarily a home run as an all-ages sort of animated comedy movie as we often expect in this post-Pixar world. It has a good amount of laughs but the whole journey home gets tiring rather quickly and in the long run it just feels okay. And thus the movie gets a good 3 silly pet things happening in the background of the movie out of a possible 5.

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