THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS:
A SMART, FUNNY, AND HEARTWARMING ANIMATED ADVENTURE FOR THE ENTIRE FAMILY…AND THEIR PETS!
By Nico Beland
Movie Review: B (3 stars)
Discover what your pets do when you are not around in The Secret Life of Pets
From Illumination Entertainment, the studio behind the Despicable Me franchise, Hop, and Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax comes the sixth film in their filmography, The Secret Life of Pets. When I first saw the trailer prior to Minions, it sounded interesting but to be fair the trailer didn’t show very much, except for that metal-head poodle which alone caught my attention.
It didn’t look bad at all judging by the advertising, but I wasn’t expecting a masterpiece, all I was looking for was a smart, funny, and original animated feature about talking pets when humans are not around, that’s basically what I got. In my opinion, this is so far Illumination’s best non-Despicable Me related movie, because over the past few years, Illumination had a rough time with other movies that don’t involve their Minion mascots, Hop was critically panned and Lorax’s reviews were split, even Minions, last year’s Despicable Me spin-off, the reviews were mixed.
Fortunately, with a talented voice cast, fast, zany animation, and a premise that the movie takes full advantage of, The Secret Life of Pets put Illumination on the right path for animated moviemaking. The movie is full of humorous jokes and visual gags (The bird owner has a poster of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds in his apartment as an example) and it doesn’t shy away from some heart and even a little drama.
Ever since he was a puppy, Max (voiced by Louis C.K.-The Invention of Lying, Louie, Trumbo), a Jack Russell Terrier has been living the dog dream with his owner, Katie (voiced by Ellie Kemper-The Office, Bridesmaids, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt). They go for walks, play fetch, go on bicycle rides together through Manhattan, everything a dog could want, they’re pretty much the best of friends. The only downside is Katie has to leave for work and Max literally just sits by the door and waits for her to come back.
Unlike Max, all the other pets in the apartment get into all kinds of shenanigans when their owners are away, that’s also when they leave their apartment rooms to chat with the other pets. One day when Katie returns home, Max soon discovers a terrifying new lifestyle, living with a second dog.
In comes a large Newfoundland dog named Duke (voiced by Eric Stonestreet-Almost Famous, The Island, Modern Family), a reckless and inconsiderate dog who Max considers a threat to his perfect life with Katie. So it becomes a bitter rivalry between Max and Duke, but they eventually get lost in the city, are caught by Animal Control, run into a gang of psychotic alley cats led by Ozone (voiced by Steve Coogan-Tropic Thunder, The Other Guys, Despicable Me 2), and encounter a group of crazy animals whom their owners left behind and are out for vengeance, led by a totally bonkers rabbit named Snowball (voiced by Kevin Hart-Ride Along, Get Hard, Central Intelligence) in their quest to put aside their differences and return home.
Meanwhile, the other pets including a white Pomeranian named Gidget (voiced by Jenny Slate-Bob’s Burgers, Obvious Child, Zootopia), a hyperactive pug named Mel (voiced by Bobby Moynihan-The Invention of Lying, Monsters University, Inside Out), an obese tabby cat named Chloe (voiced by Lake Bell-Pride and Glory, Shrek Forever After, Mr. Peabody & Sherman), a laidback dachshund named Buddy (voiced by Hannibal Buress-Neighbors, Daddy’s Home, The Angry Birds Movie), and a small parakeet named Sweet Pea (voiced by Tara Strong-The Powerpuff Girls, The Fairly OddParents, Teen Titans) meet up with an elderly basset hound named Pops (voiced by Dana Carvey-Saturday Night Live, Wayne’s World, The Dana Carvey Show) and a grumpy, red-tailed hawk named Tiberius (voiced by Albert Brooks-Finding Nemo, The Simpsons Movie, Finding Dory) who accompany them on their journey to find Max and Duke and bring them home.
Overall, The Secret Life of Pets is a very enjoyable animated film, the humor is spot-on, the animation is fast and zany, the characters are likable, and there’s a strong chemistry between Max and Duke as characters. Actually the chemistry between Max and Duke reminds me a lot of Woody and Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story, it’s a very similar rivalry in the beginning but as the film progresses they become best friends.
Of course the other characters are great too, Gidget is hilarious as she goes to extreme lengths to save Max and she has romantic affections towards him, Kevin Hart as Snowball is a laugh riot, the animation on him is comedic gold and energetic and just hearing his voice come out of this cute little bunny gets a big laugh, Albert Brooks as the hawk is also a ton of fun, seeing him try to resist his killer instincts around the pets is very funny, and of course the best character in the movie…LEONARD THE HEAD-BANGING, METAL-HEAD, POODLE!
Like I said before, the animation is energetic and one of the things Illumination Entertainment does very well in terms of animation is character movement. The characters are expressive, move fast, and their action gets quick and wild, and it’s all part of the fun for the animators to show off their skills.
What else can I say, The Secret Life of Pets is an entertaining animated adventure for the whole family, whether you have pets or not.