REVIEW – The Secret Life of Pets

Guest reviewer Kieran Meaney brings you his thoughts on the latest animated film from Illumination Studios. Give it a read and stay tuned for my review tomorrow, featuring a spooky horror film. I can’t wait! *hides under blanket* – Adam


Just in case you notice the different handwriting – yes, I’m not your usual beloved reviewer. I am, in fact, yet another bloody critic. Sorry, the usual guy had some other film to see. That’ll probably come along later. For now, let’s follow some random guy off the street’s opinion of the Illumination Studios tried-to-be-a-Pixar-masterpiece The Secret Life of Pets.

I’m told there’s supposed to be stupid pictures around here.

Now, that opening may just give away a few of my thoughts on this movie. I would really love to open with the things I liked about this movie, but there aren’t many standouts. I suppose my expectations ruined it for me. When I saw the first teaser for this movie in mid-2015 I was excited. I saw a variety of pets getting up to miscellaneous mischief while their owners are out during the day (Seriously – where do they go every day!?). While I wasn’t sure what the movie would actually be about, I assumed that this would be a light hearted romp about bored pets, as the title would suggest. What we get instead is a clichéd buddy movie ripping off the plot of the various Toy Story films.

The story revolves around Max (Louis C.K.), a lovable terrier devoted to his owner Katie. Conflict arises when Katie brings home a new dog, Duke (Eric Stonestreet) – a much larger and shaggier pound rescue in need of a home. The two immediately fail to hit it off and before long the conflict escalates and an incident in the dog park sees them lost in New York City. The other pets from Max’s apartment block soon realise there’s trouble and set about trying to find him with some friends we meet along the way.

Now, without spoiling too many plot points, our unhappy pair find themselves trying to find their way home while trying to avoid a nefarious underground group of so called “Flushed Pets” – the pets who were abandoned by their owners who now hang out in the sewers and plot the downfall of the human race.  Unsurprisingly, they don’t achieve this over the course of the movie (Sorry – spoilers), and only seem to add unnecessary menace to the characters who actually contribute to the story. The leader of the Flushed Pets is the deeply psychotic bunny Snowball, played exactly as you would expect it from Kevin Hart – over the top and unconvincing. While the Flushed Pets succeed in creating some anxiety and threatening scenes for Max and Duke, the whole concept irritated me deeply since they seemed to achieve nothing besides freeing Max and Duke from the animal control.

14249171_1470232512990550_768372944_nAn actually threatening movie rabbit. Definitely not from this movie.

The supporting cast included such talented comedians as Steve Coogan, Dana Carvey, Ellie Kemper, Hannibal Buress and Albert Brooks, but their talent mostly went to waste in forgettable roles

This movie really had potential. There were a number of moments which were obviously designed to be heartfelt and moving, but the consistently missed the mark. The prime example comes when we learn of Duke’s past owner. The first and last mention of the old guy occur within the space of about 5 minutes, and the moment which is clearly designed to tug at the old heartstrings misses because we haven’t had any time to build up any emotional connection. The moment passes as the increasingly unnecessary action takes over and distracts from everything that just happened.

The pacing in this movie was its downfall. Everything moved just a little too fast. We have barely any time seeing how Max and Katie are so great together before Duke comes in to “ruin” everything, then before we know it they’re lost and looking for home. Between the Animal Control and the Flushed Pets, the action sequences feel forced and overbearing, barely letting the plot up for air.

There’s a lot more I could say. There’s no character development; there’s a very, very thin romance subplot; did I mention the unnecessary action sequences yet? And I’m sure a lot of people will just think ‘give it a break, it’s a kids movie!’, and sure, that’s obviously the target market. But this felt like watching a terrible Zack Snyder DC film when you’re used to the top notch Marvel Cinematic Universe quality (I’m comparing Illumination to Pixar there, just so we’re clear). Disney/Pixar show us that it is completely possible to make animated movies that anyone can enjoy, and that’s what I really wanted this movie to be. But at the end of the day it really did just feel like the sort of movie that you would enjoy as a kid, but if you rewatched it years later you would cringe.

There are definitely worse ways to spend 2 hours, and it definitely has funny moments, but The Secret Life of Pets really does not do what it says on the packet. This is more Max and Duke’s Big Day Out.

I’m told I need to give it a score or something, so I’ll give it a solid:

2.5/5 – It really had potential, but it missed the mark.


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