The Secret Life of Pets (2016)

7:52 AM

Ever wonder what your pets do when you're not home?
 The Secret Life of Pets is directed by Chris Renaud (Despicable Me, The Lorax) and Yarrow Cheney (feature length directorial debut). The film features the voices of Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family, Almost Family), Jenny Slate (Zootopia, Obvious Child), Lake Bell (Man Up, No Escape) and Kevin Hart (Ride Along, Get Hard). "Taking place in a Manhattan apartment building, Max's life as a favorite pet is turned upside down, when his owner brings home a sloppy mongrel named Duke. They have to put their quarrels behind when they find out that an adorable white bunny named Snowball is building an army of lost pets determined to take revenge". Illumination Entertainment have hits such as Despicable Me and The Lorax - can The Secret Life of Pets join their strong lineup? 

I hate to say it but The Secret Life of Pets is the perfect example of a studio getting you to buy tickets for a film that has a fantastic film and it ends up actually being pretty mediocre, generic and extremely short. I really liked all of the trailers for Pets but I am just very underwhelmed by the end result - that doesn't mean its an awful film but I was just expecting it to be up there with the first Despicable Me and it wasn't - this is actually Illumination's weakest effort so far in my opinion (out of this, The Lorax and Despicable Me). 

One thing The Secret Life of Pets does have going for it is the terrific voice cast who are all very funny and have really strong performances. I thought Louis C.K. and Eric Stonestreet were good but it is strange that the two leads were almost sidelined as Lake Bell and Jenny Slate got most of the funny lines. I wasn't too impressed with Kevin Hart though who was back to doing what I hate - his whole performance was basically just him screeching and screaming - extremely annoying. I just don't understand why Hart has to be so over the top - it is more irritating than funny. 

The story and whole film definitely wasn't as fun as the trailer made out - I think the whole concept of 'The Secret Life of Pets' wears off pretty fast as soon as the generic story kicks in - you forget that these are meant to be pets, they just feel like talking animals - it would have been nice if the film kept cutting out to show what 'we see' and then cut back to 'what is really happening'. The Secret Life of Pets is definitely a very fun film though - there are many funny moments and quite a few jokes that older viewers can appreciate (one of these is how Max helped to teach the male dog's the comfortable way of sitting after their operation). Pets has hints of being smart but it just falls into the trap of being pretty generic most of the time. I also thought the story just felt very thin and one dimensional - it felt like 'now we have to go here' - there wasn't a nice flow, more of a step-by-step. I think the writing for this film could definitely be improved which would help this. The Secret Life of Pets is also an extremely short film - around 80 minutes long - it definitely isn't worth the ticket price - those in the US, if you have to see this, pay for matinee prices as they might be slightly better value. The film also lacked a clear prosocial message which is always nice to see in an animated film. 

The animation for The Secret Life of Pets was strong but once again nothing special - it was colourful and bright and the features on the dogs were well realised (especially the noses). Even though the animation is a step above TV animated shows - Pets did feel like an extended TV film - it didn't have much cinematic value and just felt like a very small film which is disappointing as the trailers have had the world going crazy online. This isn't helped by the soundtrack which I think didn't suit the film and actually made some scenes feel very quiet and awkward. This has to be the first time where I've noticed a soundtrack that doesn't really suit the film. 

The Secret Life of Pets is a missed opportunity and I can't help think that the team at Pixar could have done a much better job with a concept like this - what Pixar do best is showing us the emotions of things you wouldn't think have emotions (e.g. cars, monsters, fish, toys). Illumination were definitely trying to pull a Pixar with this idea but it didn't really pay off. 

The Secret Life of Pets is on par with last year's mediocre minions - it just isn't great and isn't anything special. The plot is disappointingly generic and doesn't flow very well which is a big let down from the original and captivating trailer. The voice cast do a great job except for Kevin Hart who was very annoying. The animation is colourful and the jokes are effective. The Secret Life of Pets will likely be a crowd pleaser but it isn't anything to write home about. 

2.5 STARS
C

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