The Secret Life of Pets (2016)
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Unfortunately, Secret Life of Pets just ended up being another okay movie for me. Right when I saw the trailers, I was reminded of Toy Story with the plot. I feared that the plot would be predictable, and it definitely was. A few different things were thrown in, but as a whole, the story was pretty predictable. One of the different things that was thrown in had potential to be a really emotional scene. This is a spoiler, by the way. Anyway, Duke finds out that his original owner had died, which could've led into an emotional scene, like in Finding Dory when Dory was made to believe her parents were dead. But the whole scene failed. Firstly, it was told, not shown. A random cat just gives the news to Duke. Second, Duke barely reacts to this, despite the movie going out of its way to show us a montage of him with his owner. He just gets mad at the family that moved into the owner's home before getting caught by animal control. After that, it's never mentioned again. Duke is just fine with his owner being dead, and living with a new owner and Max. This really bothers me, since as I said, this scene had potential to be emotionally provoking. But it didn't take the chance.
Our main characters didn't interest me. Max is just another typical good guy that just wants a good life. Duke was just another lovable big guy who may be a bit slow. However, the only characters that made me laugh/I enjoyed were Gidget, Snowball, Tiberius, and Pops. Gidget and Snowball were the ones that really shined, though. Gidget was just plain adorable, and hilarious. As for Snowball, I'm not a big fan of Kevin Hart, but he really did a great job for his first animated film. I personally prefer him doing voice work than him in live action films. He managed to make me laugh multiple times as Snowball. That bunny may be cute, but he's totally psychotic. As for the rest of the characters, they didn't really interest me. I don't hate any of them, but they were pretty generic.
I also am sick of the Minions. They got old when their own movie was made. I won't mind seeing them in Despicable Me 3, since we'll only get small doses of them, but having them constantly shoved in our faces is getting annoying. The short that came on before Secret Life of Pets was just stupid. No experimentation with the animation or characters. Just plain stupidity. They also had one of the dogs in Secret Life wear a Minions costume, and I just rolled my eyes. Minions may make Illumination money, but not many people care about them anymore. I certainly don't.
I do have some positive things to say about this film. The animation was impressive. I was particularly impressed with how they animated water, and the mannerisms of the pets. Which leads into the next thing I liked about this. I admire how much the creators of the film did their research on not just dogs, but most pets people keep. They were spot on with how dogs, cats, birds, etc. act. As a dog and cat owner, I appreciate the humor/realism that went into the pets, and they reminded me of my own pets.
As a whole, this a cute, but flawed film. I wasn't impressed with most of the characters. The story was predictable. Nothing about this film was thought or emotionally provoking. However, I appreciated some of the film's humor, animation, and the research that went into the mannerisms of the pets. It's a shame that this wasn't Illumination's breakthrough. Sure, it's making a lot of money, but it's still just an alright movie. Hopefully one day, Illumination will make a film just as great as the likes of Zootopia or Inside Out. The Secret Life of Pets just isn't that film.
"Pets" is definitely not a failure and there are several parts where I enjoyed it from the comedic perspective. I also liked some minor references, for example early on about how the main character does not like to be at home alone. The comedy is not the problem here. It is the emotional impact. The only part where it is close to making one is when we find out about the new dog's owner and his journey back to his old owner's house. Other than that, the drama is entirely forgettable and good animation is just not enough anymore today on the level of Pixar quality. There are many flaws with the story in here. First of all, the makers thrown in one character after the other without really elaborating on any of them. Honestly, counting all the (lost) pets, there are enough characters for three films in here. Another problem is their behavior. It felt a bit strange how they quickly stepped in for each other out of nowhere when moments before we still felt that they did not like each other at all and this refers to the two dogs as well as the fluffy white rabbit who turns out the main antagonist. We see all the time how evil and cold-hearted he is and then out of nowhere he risks his life for his enemies basically.
Another big problem I had with the film is that I had no idea what the characters' goals were throughout the film, at least for the two dogs. Enjoy a day out? Run from the lost pets? Run from the dog-catcher? They were just out there and it really had no purpose and then in the end they return home safely and it's all good with everybody being friends with everybody. I was not convinced at all. Also about the love interest of the main character, there was contradictory behavior. On one occasions she acts as if she wants nobody to know who she has a crush on and then she screams it out to everybody. It was pretty bizarre and the writing really lacked a lot on some occasions. This is also why my overall verdict for the film is negative. I give it a thumbs-down and if they ever make a sequel I must say I have very little interest in seeing it as this film was quite a disappointment and for me personally, it is nowhere near being a contender for best animated film of 2016, even with all the known voice actors in the German as well as English version. Not even for Louis C.K., everyone can be a winner.
The problem with The Secret Lives of Pets stems from its complete inability to marry story, character and concept into a discernible package. As it stands, the film is rushed, bulky and is chalked full of nonsensical choices that cripples any verdant ideas that could have been. It's a first draft; not a final product.
The story begins with a happy Jack Russell Terrier named Max (C.K.) who lives with his owner Katie (Kemper) in a surprisingly roomy Manhattan apartment. Things change drastically and suddenly with the arrival of Duke (Stonestreet) a large, shaggy Newfoundland whose introduced as a "new brother" to Max's chagrin. They, of course don't get along and after a series of confrontations find themselves lost. The first to notice they're missing is a lovestruck Pomeranian named Gidget (Slate) who recruits the rest of Max's friends among others to recover them from the vast streets of New York City.
The rest of Max's friends are barely worth mentioning as they're mostly utilized to push the buttons and pull the levers on some uninspired comedic set-pieces. They're not really useful to the plot, nor do they succeed in being the Toy Story (1995)-inspired resilient and diverse gaggle the movie hopes they are. Part of the reason for this is none of the side characters actually solve any problems. They jet here, they jet there but when faced with any obstacles they just seem to rush it. Gone is the creativity of having Mr. Potato Head fashion a new body out of a tortilla; now we have elderly Basset Hound, Pops (Carvey) hobbling through construction sites with stalwart confidence.
Frankly focusing on the story's tagged-on villains might have paid more dividends. The broad machinations of Snowball (Hart), a bunny with delusions of grandeur are easily the best part of the film, even if they remain painfully underdeveloped. Additionally his "Flushed Pets" group could have complicated Duke's allegiance to his new owner or more easily pegged Max as a fully socialized pet and therefore in need of re-education. Snowball was the best chance the movie had in getting audiences to truly know the characters we're supposed to be rooting for but instead they blew it on prolonged chase sequences and a sausage factory bit that goes absolutely nowhere.
And that gets me to the biggest problem I have with this film; the creators' approach to the high concept itself. The film tries to have its cake and eat it to, portraying characters with innately human characteristics but still clinging to the charming pet-like idiosyncrasies we know and love about our furry friends. For example, Gidget recruits the help of Tiberius (Brooks) a hawk who at first tries to eat her. She barely escapes his talons only to trust him once more because that's just what a peppy little dog would do. Max's friends Mel (Moynihan) and Buddy (Buress) don't even notice Max is gone because, being dogs, they're distracted by butterflies and squirrels. They're certainly not a rag-tag group of lovable rogues, they're a confederacy of dunces, successful only because of the ever changing allegiances of the main antagonist. Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention Snowball at one point joins forces with Max to save Duke in a climactic sequence so blithely unnatural it renders the friends search and rescue completely moot.
This film is a rushed, characterless, flavorless kids film that just barely stretches its plot over the skeleton of its story structure. As I said before, if all you're looking for is a bland and forgettable family film, you could do worse. Yet provided it's appealing concept, you'd really think the animation studio that made Despicable Me (2010) could do better.
Maybe you'll enjoy it - there certainly are more than a few positive reviews here - but it's not one that I'll watch again (unlike some of those Pixar and Disney movies which stand up to repeated re- viewing).
The plot centers around Max (Louis C.K.), a terrier living happily with his loving owner Katie (Ellie Kemper) in New York City, but when she adopts a bigger dog named Duke (Eric Stonestreet) to live with them, Max is overwhelmed by his new roommate. The two opposing dogs must then work together however, before Katie gets back when they are lost in the big city.
For an original story done by Illumination, it does creatively borrow off the concepts of both Toy Story as well as the 2008 film Bolt, yet it flows out well with the voice cast bringing these characters to life which include stand-up comic Louis C.K. voicing the leading dog Max, Jenny Slate (Saturday Night Live, Zootopia) as Max's potential love interest Gidget, and 'Modern Family' star Eric Stonestreet as Duke. With quick-witted, slapstick humor that feels reminiscent of Looney Tunes (even with a tendency to adlib lines in some scenes), the real scene stealer among this talented cast goes to comedian Kevin Hart voicing adorable, yet antagonistic rabbit Snowball.
While the littler ones will be kept engaged and entertained by the humorous animal characters as well as the obstacles they come across, to me personally the story feels rushed, especially the need for a little more emotional depth and better character development. I know there's a lot more to offer in this story's universe, so a sequel can't be far behind from this underrated animated flick. Nevertheless, it certainly kept me laughing nearly throughout the movie's 90-minute run time and it's something that shouldn't be taken for granted. I enjoyed it.
The movie delivered exactly what it promised: laughs. It's not earth shattering, mind blowing, and it doesn't explain the meaning of life in 90 minutes. But it's not that type of movie. It's a summer escape film, one that is a little different from the 1000th superhero movie or Sequel #10 of The Current Film of Mediocrity, and one that you can bring your children to without worrying about covering their eyes and ears every scene. There are a couple of scenes of mild violence or almost violence, but they aren't any worse than Bugs Bunny and his adventures with the Roadrunner (I suppose that reference dates me lol).
What I liked the best about the movie is the way it demonstrates the thoughts and behaviors of the pets to the viewer. As a Great Dane owner, I often wonder what my dogs are thinking/doing, especially when I'm at work, and my ideas are similar to the writers. Their thoughts and conversations were the funniest parts of the film, and the scenes and soundtrack combined with the dialogue to form a lighthearted, enjoyable story.
First things first is starting from the beginning and the introduction of the characters and I thought Illumination Entertainment did a fantastic job in presenting each individual. As an audience we knew after the first ten minutes who each character was, their relationships with each other, and the individual personalities. For an animation film I was really pleased with this because you normally don't get that character depth in the beginning and sometimes you never get it in the film. As the story went on the characters developed at an individual level as well as a relationship level with others which added to the plot line drastically. Not to mention the actors and actresses who portrayed each character were spot on with the voices.
However, the icing on the cake for the entire film for me was the soundtrack. The soundtrack is very important because it not only sets the pace for the film on screen but it also changes your emotions and tells you when you need to be sad, scared, happy, etc. That is exactly what this soundtrack did and it pleased me because without that human interaction happening on the screen, because it was animated, the music filled that gap and allowed your emotions to change.
One problem I did have with the movie, and this was more towards the end, was the humor. The humor made me laugh in the beginning quite a bit but by the end of the movie the humor was starting to become more outrageous. Almost as if they were trying to hard to make it funny. Now even though this humor was changing a bit as the film went on it was not enough for me not to suggest seeing this movie for its laugh value.
Overall, if you have a family, kids, husband, or just want to see this movie with friends I would definitely recommend. You'll laugh, you'll cry a little bit, but most importantly you will leave the theater happy.
If on the other hand; you want your kids to laugh non-stop for about 90 minutes and you enjoy with them; then do not loose one minute, get tickets for the Secret Life of Pet and start laughing on the first minute with the Minions short and keep doing it short until the very end of titles. There is some moral message about friendship, trust and love; but it will be guilty pleasure laugh and a few suspenseful moments.
***SPOILER AHEAD**** Word of advice and possible spoiler; Snowball (the rabbit) is the most twisted character seen lately in movies; it can easily be part of an horror movie; but as played by Kevin Hart; it is historically funny whenever on screen. The same can be said for Gidget (played by Jenny Slate); her transition from a white sweet puppy to a dangerous and terrifying fighter is another of the top moments of the movie. ****END OF SPOILER****
In brief; it will not win any Oscars; but is still the funniest movie of the summer.
The movie makes you realize the joy of having a pet, made me remember my dog who passed away years ago. The voice actors really do well with there characters. It's a fun adventure and misadventure also. The animation is amazing, not Toy Story amazing, but amazing. Awesome to see all kinds of animals working together. Kids and adults I believe will enjoy this. Will make really enjoy owning a pet, and what a pet means to you.
This is a very funny story about the way our pets see the world and how they see us! Max learns to love Duke even though he doesn't want to share his owner with him and both are lucky to have Katie in their lives. I recommend this movie to all pet owners!
The GOOD Cute/Kid Friendly Funny Good animation
When you watch, or for many rewatch, the trailers you most likely saw the characters as cute, cuddly animals doing hilarious things. Good news! The trailer is accurate this time and provides the cute factor you expected (including the very scenes you saw in the trailer). All of the characters are adorable, the main ones being bouncy, fluffy, high-spirited animals that will make you want to say Awwwwww. Our design team found a way to maximize all the cute features of an animal and sell it to the families that will lead to merchandising. Even animals you wouldn't think cute (like snakes, gators, and lizards) get the cuddly personifications. Hopefully you have gathered from this, that the design is kid friendly and will have your little ones enamored.
But cute is only the hook, what keeps the interest going in this film? The answer is the comedy of course. The stunts the animals pull are entertaining and the dialogue itself had me chuckling at many of the media references. Voice acting only helps sell the comedy more, especially Kevin Hart and all his high pitched screaming. Your kids though will be the ones to enjoy the comedy the most though, as it is slapstick, simplistic antics with digital pets. Running into walls, making funny faces, or going to the bathroom on the floor are just some of the things you will see that had toddlers chuckling in their seats.
And a small bonus, that really shouldn't be a surprise, is that the animation is good. Illumination Entertainment certainly has their anatomy and physiology down being able to superimpose human qualities while still maintaining there animal qualities. Glad to know that our animation studios are still able to produce great works. If only they could have put that effort into the next few qualities.
THE BAD The Story Lack of Uniqueness Trailers showed you a lot of the movie
With the comedy and animation being the obvious focus, you have to wonder how the story fared in this movie. Unfortunately it didn't fare that well. Oh it's not that bad at all, but the problem is that it lacks anything memorable or emotionally driving for me. The writers crammed a lot of plots into a short 90 minutes run time, and the resulting production was a very rushed, shallow tale with little development. A split focus resulted in little emotional build-up, and there was no intriguing qualities to keep my attention on any of the cast. And the goal they were trying to achieve was very limited and didn't really set any time limit or urgency to the tale.
To add more fuel to that fire, The Secret Life of Pets wasn't really that unique of a movie. We've had talking pet movies before, where anthropomorphic animals traverse a city or town that often involves a very extreme villain (think Oliver and Company or Homeward Bound). Those tales stick home because they had edge, depth, and moments that stick out in your mind. Not the case with this movie, as again there was no drive to make our pets grow, develop, or even go through much struggle at all. It doesn't have any twists to mix things up either, and therefore leaves little to spoilt. In addition, much of the movie, including a lot of the funny parts, is revealed in the three trailers out and therefore you can save yourself some major bucks by just rewatching all of the trailers. Yeah, I know that is definitely a disappointing factor.
The Secret Life Of Pets is exactly what the trailer promises, fun, entertaining, and wildly adorable. Younger audience members, as well as those very young at heart, are the target group for this movie hands down. It has the laugh factor certainly, and the cast of characters are a motley crew that I certainly enjoyed. However, the story is very simplistic, the lack of emotional suspense, and that much of the movie is told in the trailers make this movie not the most memorable of the summer. I can't say it is worth a trip to the theater in comparison to some of the other kid movies, but it makes for a good family outing.
My scores are:
Animation/Comedy/Family: 7.5-8.0 Movie Overall: 7.0
I think the jokes in the movie would be funnier for adults than children, probably because I'm a fan of Louis C.K. and his delivery. I think the eventual happy ending that concludes the movie is suited to the kids and they will come out happy they saw it.
The characters aren't as compelling as Disney/Pixar characters but I think there were more jokes in this one than usual. I also don't think there were as much emotional obstacles for the characters to conquer in this one opposed to a Disney/Pixar movie. This movie was just fun almost all the way through. Even when the characters were about to die they were still making jokes. Some people might rather this type of animation.
The movie was easy and fun to watch, a good movie for the kids and the adults.
My favorite character is Gidget (Jenny Slate) who is a white little dog who likes Max. She is very sweet and kind, but when it comes to helping her friends, she will fight anyone. This is a funny trait of Gidget's because she is a super sweet dog but she will fight to protect her loved ones.
My favorite scene is when Duke and Max are in a wiener factory and there is a little song where the hot dogs come to life. Little kids might not like this scene because the singing hot dogs get eaten by Duke and Max and they eat the hot dog's heads off.
Though there are many morals to this movie, the most important is "Do not judge someone before you get to know them." Max doesn't like Duke when he first comes, but later on he learns to appreciate him.
The Secret Life of Pets is a funny cartoon about cute animals, but it may not appeal to younger audiences. There are some scenes that might be too scary for little kids. Also, Max and Duke say this to save their lives but, be forewarned they do say "put their owner in the blender."
I recommend The Secret Life of Pets for kids ages 5 to 15 due to the scary scenes. Older audiences may like this movie if they love animals and fun cartoons. I rate this movie 5 out of 5 stars because it is entertaining and about my favorite subject...animals!
Reviewed by Mia A., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic.
This is clearly aimed at kids but has plenty of humor that adults will enjoy. I'm in my 50s and laughed long and loud at some of the antics. The script is good and moves quickly. I was never bored. With one exception the voices perfectly fit the characters. The one exception was Snowball. He's a psychotic rabbit voiced by Kevin Hart. Hart can be funny but not here. He YELLS every word out at the audience. It gets annoying quick. The animation is great--very fluid and pleasing to the eye. The backdrops of NYC are breath-taking. The only real debit is there are some glaring lapses in logic but it IS a kids film. Recommended.
Tell me if this sounds familiar: Someone's possessions (as he or she views them) actually have secret lives of their own which are only really apparent when the owner is not around. These anthropomorphic possessions relate to each other and form friendships. When a newer version of the original is brought into the group, jealousy emerges and the original tries to get rid of the interloper. This struggle results in both of the rivals being thrust out of the comforts of home into the little-understood big, bad world, a situation which requires their compadres to venture out of their own comfort zones to mount a rescue.
That set-up fits Illumination Entertainment's 2016 "The Secret Life of Pets" as well as it does the 1995 Pixar/Disney classic film "Toy Story". (Think, "Pet Story", or "The Secret Life of Toys".) But considering that the 2016 film is about animals rather than toys, maybe the better comparison is to another 2016 animated feature (also from Disney) by the name of "Zootopia". In both of those 2016 films, a couple of anthropomorphic animals (among many others living in a big city) form a partnership which develops into a mutually beneficial friendship. I guess it's not unfair to think of "The Secret Life of Pets" as a mash-up of "Toy Story" and "Zootopia". Nevertheless, this one charts its own unique course and is as entertaining as those other two or the "Despicable Me" films, also from Illumination Entertainment.
Now that you know what "The Secret Life of Pets" is LIKE, here's what it's ABOUT: The movie focuses on a small brown and white terrier named Max (voiced by Louis C.K.) and his relationship with the other pets in his apartment building. Max lives in a small Manhattan apartment with his owner, a young woman named Katie (Ellie Kemper). When Katie goes to work each day, Max sits at the door wondering where she has gone and waiting for her to come back and play with him. Meanwhile, the pets in the building across the alley and above and below his apartment (and one guniea pig lost in the air ducts) are more active in their daily lives (and more mobile) than is readily apparent. (Thus, the title of the film.) Some of the neighborhood pets include an overweight white cat named Chloe (Lake Bell), a bulldog named Mel (Bobby Moynihan), a dachshund named Buddy (Hannibal Buress), a canary named Sweet Pea (Tara Strong), and Gidget (Jenny Slate), a white Pomeranian who has a secret crush on Max.
Except for missing Katie during the day, all is well in Max's little world until one not-so-fine day when Katie brings home another dog she rescued from a shelter. Duke (Eric Stonestreet) is a large, shaggy, dark brown dog who has no problem throwing his weight around to get the best place to sleep, or as much food as he wants, or anything else. Max starts scheming about how to get rid of Duke, but one such attempt while they're in the park with Katie's dog walker back-fires and sets both Max and Duke off on a wild and dangerous journey around the city. When Gidget realizes that Max has disappeared, she enlists their mutual pet friends, plus a caged hawk named Tiberius (Albert Brooks), and a few other neighborhood pets (including the Dana Carvey voiced "Pops"), to help her find Max. Meanwhile, Max and Duke have to try escaping from animal control workers, a disfigured alley cat named Ozone (Steve Coogan) and a small, but crazed and bitter bunny named Snowball (Kevin Hart), who was discarded by the magician he worked for and now leads a sewer-dwelling group of radicals called The Flushed Pets, who are bent on wiping out all the humans – and who decide that Max and Duke are also their enemies.
"The Secret Life of Pets" is every bit as entertaining as you'd hope, based on its theatrical trailers, or its movie posters, or just its title. Co-writers Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio and Brian Lynch exploit many of the well-known quirks of different kinds of pets, but give each character in the film its own personality. Then, once the script clearly establishes who each of these characters are, it gives them plenty to do, but without making the story unnecessarily complicated. Co-directors Chris Renaud (who also voices the aforementioned lost guinea pig) and Yarrow Cheney bring this promising concept and excellent script to realization by keeping the plot moving and not overdoing any of the film's big ideas or overplaying any of the gags. Finally, with the film's impressive voice cast and the filmmakers' "Despicable" history, the performances and the visuals are excellent across the board. On the critical side, I found a subplot involving Duke's backstory and a "Grease"-inspired sausage-fueled dream sequence to be odd and unnecessary diversions, and I would've liked to see just a little more originality and inspiration sprinkled throughout the movie. However, there's no denying that "The Secret Life of Pets" is very well-done good, clean fun for the whole family. "A-"