When the trailer for Illumination Entertainment’s The Secret Life of Pets was released, I was honestly surprised as to how positive/optimistic many people seemed to be towards it. Almost everyone I knew said that the film looked cute or funny or had an interesting premise or was a film that they were looking forward to seeing. I, on the other hand, seemed to be in the minority opinion!
I thought the trailer seemed kinda stupid. It seemed to be pushing the ubiquitous “funny jokes for kids” trope that we see in a lot of animation and I didn’t really find any of the jokes funny. The plot seemed very reminiscent of past films such as Toy Story and it seemed that the only reason Kevin Hart, Louis C.K. and Eric Stonestreet were cast as voices were just to have popular celebrities’ names attached to the film. Heck, I’m not even a “pets” person, so I couldn’t even identify with that aspect of the film that many pet owners seemed to readily identify with! I was much more looking forward to Illumination Entertainment’s Sing than this film.
Eventually, I ended up watching this film. Was I as disappointed as I thought I was going to be? Or was I surprisingly impressed? Read on to find out what I thought of The Secret Life of Pets.
By the way, there will be some SPOILERS!
The film focuses on a dog named Max, voiced by Louis C.K., who is owned by Kate, voiced by Ellie Kemper. They have a pretty perfect owner/pet relationship as you can imagine. They do everything together and love each other very much. Max even waits at the door for Kate to come home from work every day. But, this happy dynamic is threatened one day when Kate brings home a dog from the pound to live with them.
Duke, voiced by Eric Stonestreet, is happy to have a home going so far as to even encroaching upon Max’s space a bit. As you can imagine, Max and Duke don’t get along in the beginning and fight a lot. One day, they get separated from their dogwalker in a nearby park and get into some interesting situations to find their home again. They get their dog collars stolen and end up briefly joining an anti-human animal gang known as the Flushed Pets run by a bunny named Snowball, voiced by Kevin Hart.
As you can imagine, throughout the film, Max and Duke grow closer while many of their fellow pet friends try to locate the two of them.
The biggest problem I have with this movie is the overall story/premise. To me, it just REEKS of averageness and mediocrity! It’s a story we’ve seen many times before, most noticeably in Toy Story, as I’ve mentioned earlier. While it’s not horrible, it just doesn’t have me enthralled as I always know what’s going to happen next!
Some aspects of the story don’t even make much sense! There’s one scene where Duke tells Max about his previous owner whom he loved, but one day, the two got separated. Max tells Duke that they should go find this owner again. When they visit Duke’s old house, they find out that Duke’s previous owner has died. Now, this should have been a big, emotional scene, but it honestly falls short of that! They were building up this aspect of the film to explain Duke’s character and why he seemed so pushy or whatnot in the beginning of the film. You would think that after finding out that his previous owner had died, there would be some sort of conflict followed by a resolution where Duke realizes that he has a new family or something like that. But, nope, instead Duke gets angry for like 5 seconds, then another part of the plot continues and this incident is never mentioned again! It’s really a wasted opportunity!
Is there anything good to say about this movie then? Oh yes, don’t get me wrong; I don’t dislike this movie. I just don’t like it nearly as much as most people who seem to love it. The film is very colorful and I think that’s the aspect of the film that stands out to me. I especially love a Pink Elephants on Parade-type scene where Max and Duke hallucinate about singing hot dogs in a hot dog factory!
The voice acting is honestly not that bad either. I see why they cast Louis C.K as he does a great job voicing Max. Even Eric Stonestreet and Kevin Hart aren’t really as bad as I thought they would be. The only voice performance that I thought was bad (like I could tell someone was recording lines into a microphone) was Lake Bell’s who voiced an obese cat named Chloe.
All in all, I did like the film more than I thought I would, but it still is just super…..ok, at best! I definitely don’t think this movie deserves a sequel, but now that we’re getting one, I hope that the story can be upped from what we were given here! If you’re like most people, I’m sure you’ll love this film! As for me, I just can’t wait to watch Sing now!
15 thoughts on “My Thoughts: THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS (2016)”
Honestly, no interest….it looks like a typical middle of the road movie. The kind of movie, Disney or Pixar would be crucified for if they dared to put it out, but which works just fine for another studio.
Very good way of putting it!
Pretty much. The sequel only exists (and being released so quickly) so they can milk yet another franchise to death. Honestly, I find Max to be a pretty weak protagonist, and Duke could have been done better. Kevin Hart annoyed the hell out of me in the film, and while the plot did not annoy me, it kind of just meandered. Toy Story wasn’t really original either, so I was not mad about some of the comparisons. Illumination Entertainment is DreamWorks without the adult humor. If the characters were better, I would not have minded the basic story.
I wonder if audiences will get tired of this franchise since they seem to be tired of Minions already?
Like DreamWorks, I think it will take some time before they get tired of it.
Spot on review. It’s hardly a secret life anymore when they start driving trucks around causing pile ups now is it.
Nope, that’s definitely gonna be showing on the 10 o’clock news!
I agree with you, it’s an ok film with some nice moments but actually has a weak plot. It looks visually very good but if the storyline doesn’t match that then it’s pointless!
Yeah, the execution is just…weak. Thanks for commenting!
I think this movie could have been a lot better. Just after the general introductions to all the dogs, I thought I would just switch it off and didn’t mind never seeing the ending. I am a big fan of animations myself, so am pleased to have found your blog!
Always glad to find fellow animation lovers! And yes, I agree: this movie could have been better than it was.
I thought this was harmless but not specifial. You are right about the previous owner plotline. That was bad
I have no idea how this got up to a 74%. I went to see this with a girl who I met in high school, and while I will always have fond memories of that, it made it worse because she would laugh almost non-stop at virtually everything in this movie that I would find either mildly amusing or embarrassing in its attempts to get an easy laugh. It made me so uncomfortable that I honestly wanted to get up and leave because it only highlighted the fact that if you aren’t laughing at the jokes, there really is nothing in here for you. It’s not a typical animated film where you can focus on the plot even if the comedy doesn’t always hit, there really is no plot to speak of, the film only sustains interest and conflict by throwing its characters through as many dangerous situations as it can, and it doesn’t add up to anything.
Add in no attention to character and a litany of moments where characters act against what you would expect them to do for no discernible reason or become whatever personalities suit the scene, and no real attempt to put in solid characters at all, and you have something where the only good thing that I can say about this film is that the sequel is so bland and plotless that it makes this one look like a freaking masterpiece for being able to maintain conflict and interest at all. At least this has style and energy, and may have some people like my friend laughing in the aisles all the way through. The sequel is just a cesspool of mediocrity, and if you haven’t seen it, I urge you to stay away from it for good unless you want an hour and a half of your life stolen from you.
(And, of course I did stay for the whole thing, and I did tell the girl I saw it with that it was very good, and “a lot of fun.”)
Wow, at least you have a story to remember!
I have seen the sequel actually; it didn’t really leave a mark on me as expected.
Also the only reason we went to see this is because while I wanted to see Finding Dory, she ended up seeing that one with her mother instead. And her other choice was The Purge: Election Year, and I couldn’t even pretend that I liked or found anything redeemable about that.