The Secret Life of Pets (2016)
Directors: Yarrow Cheney, Chris Renaud
Writers: Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio, Brian Lynch
Actors: Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart, Jenny Slate, Dana Carvey
Review: Yeah, my thoughts exactly.
Is there such thing as an animated dark comedy for kids? If not, then I think we’ve got our first inductee in The Secret Life of Pets. This is a mean-spirited, unfunny, animated animal film that never lives up to the bar raised by Illumination Entertainment’s animated juggernaut Despicable Me.
It starts out relatively benign. Max, our dog protagonist, discusses how much he loves his owner and vice versa. Cut to various scenes of animals doing odd activities at home (most of which had already been shown in the trailers.) Then, conflict arises when Max’s owner brings home a new dog named Duke. Duke’s a big, brown, and furry dog and Max instantly dislikes him. It’s one dog too many. Soon, Max conspires to get Duke removed from the apartment.
Here’s the problem. My assumption was that Duke would prove to be a kind-hearted new addition to the household and that Max would have to learn to accept him while learning to share the love. Turns out, Duke is mean too. He wants to get rid of Max just as much as Max wants to get rid of him. How can you root for the two dogs if they just antagonize each other? After that, the movie goes downhill fast. Max and Duke encounter mean cats, emotionless dog-catchers, and a pack of underground animals led by the weirdest, jacked-up bunny ever.
Every time you turn around, some animal is threatening another animal. This poses so many problems because it makes the audience dislike every character. Even Gidget, a white fluffball in love with Max, uses hostile tactics to get what she wants. After Max and Duke go missing, she starts slapping an animal repeatedly for more information on Max’s whereabouts. This was one instance of many that upset me.
It finally started to become a conventional feel-good family film about 3/4 of the way through. Max helps Duke locate his previous owner, then Duke saves Max from the dog-catchers. By the end of the film, all of the animals, including that delirious bunny, have a good home. Still, this doesn’t make up for the unsettling events that precede it.
Overall, it’s a chaotic, unintelligent animated comedy that needs a dash more heart and substance. At least the ending leaves a good taste in your mouth.
4 out of 10.