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!