The Secret Life of Pets is directed by Chris Renaud and Yarrow Cheney and stars Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart, and Jenny Slate. The movie is about a dog named Max (C.K.) whose owner takes in a new dog named Duke (Stonestreet), and together they are busted by animal control and are forced to work together to get back to their owner.
This was a movie that looked to have an interesting enough premise to be a great animated film, and the cast loaded with comedians really had me hoping for a seriously hilarious movie. This cast of funny people is what works the best in this movie, as I really enjoyed nearly every character in the film.
Louis C.K. is great as Max in this movie, being both very funny and heartfelt when he needed to be. Stonestreet is also good as Duke, but the two standouts for me were Jenny Slate and Kevin Hart, for both good and bad.
Slate, who I thought would get annoying very quickly, ended up being my favorite animal of the film, with her constant determination being the energy and humor needed in some scenes that could have felt as if they were dragging without her.
Hart is very up and down for me in the film, with many moments involving his character being “laugh out loud” hilarious. However, nearly as many of his scenes left me annoyed at his constant yelling and overacting.
Visually, Secret Life of Pets follows in the Despicable Me style, the same people make them after all, with well-done animation that is stylistic instead of realistic, and I think the style worked for this type of movie. The comedy generally is effective, maybe not as much as I had hoped but it still brings a good amount of chuckles from start to finish. I’d say I had a pretty fun time watching The Secret Life of Pets, but sadly that’s about as high as my praise goes.
There are moments where the movie looks as if it is going to take that extra step into deeper themes and truly impactful emotion, and then it just doesn’t. It’s as if the creators of this film wanted to take a book from the lovely Pixar formula, but then stopped themselves halfway through. There are two or three moments that clearly could have brought out powerful emotion, but they are not handled nearly well enough to do so. While we are talking about Pixar, this movie takes a lot of its storyline from the Toy Story movies, and it often feels like a lesser rip-off of a better film.
Overall, The Secret Life of Pets is a well-animated, decently funny film that certainly will be loved by kids everywhere, but may not be the most satisfying for those looking for more. The comedic talent does good work, but the attempted moments of drama fall completely flat and it made the film feel like it was missing that extra something. I can’t say I disliked The Secret Life of Pets, but I will say that I was left feeling rather disappointed that the movie wasn’t something like a Zootopia, but instead more like a Minions.
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