Friday, July 8, 2016

The Secret Life of Pets Review

We've been on a little run of family movies recently with Finding Dory beginning its monstrous run at the end of June, The BFG opening last weekend and The Secret Life of Pets opening this weekend. If you're a parent with a bunch of little kids running around, I can totally understand that it may be impossible for you to run and see all of these family movies. So allow the crazy, 27-year-old single dude who has nothing better to do with his life than watch movies and review them help you out a little here. No, I may not have a wife and kids, but I do have a special intuition with what the kids will enjoy. I have several older siblings that have this thing called life all figured out and thus I am an uncle to nearly 20 nieces and nephews of whom I absolutely adore. I'm pretty good at detecting a movie that I know my nieces and nephews will love. The Secret Life of Pets is definitely one of those movies. The kids will fall in love with this movie and thus it has the potential to become a childhood favorite for many. That said, if you're going to spend the money to take your family out to a show, I do think it's important for that movie to be one that parents and kids will love equally. The Secret Life of Pets is NOT that movie. That would be Finding Dory. So if you can only pick one to see, go see Finding Dory and wait for the DVD to see The Secret Life of Pets.

The Secret Life of Pets is about a young boy named Andy who owns a collection of toys that he loves. His favorite one is a cowboy named Woody. He's loved Woody for a long time. But on his birthday, he gets a new toy named Buzz Lightyear. Well, these toys have a secret life when the humans aren't around and Woody is not happy. Woody and Buzz end up hating each other because of it and due to a series of events, this leads to both of them being lost in the city and they need to learn to work together to get back home to Andy. Wait. Shoot. I got the wrong movie there. My bad. That's not The Secret Life of Pets. That's Toy Story. Let me get my thoughts straight and give you the premise of The Secret Life of Pets. This movie is about a girl named Katie who owns a dog named Max. Katie loves Max and Max loves Katie. But then one day Katie comes home with another dog named Duke and Max is not happy. Max and Duke end up hating each other because of it and due to a series of events, this leads to both of them being lost in the city and they need to learn to work together to get back home to Katie. Wait, what? Is it just me or did I just describe the same movie twice? Did Illumination look at Toy Story and decide to pitch the exact same movie, but with pets instead of toys?

Okay, I'll stop playing dumb here. Toy Story with pets is the very first thing that I thought of when I first saw the teaser for this movie. But hey, that could work, right? It's not going to be the exact same movie with the exact same plot. They're going to have their own fun, unique spin. That would be really dumb, otherwise. Ha. Ha ha. Ha ha ha. Yeah... Exact. Same. Plot. To a t. We just have Max and Duke instead of Woody and Buzz and they are two dogs instead of two toys and their owner is a girl this time around who is a bit older. I was really kinda dumbfounded. And when we weren't following Toy Story to a t, we were following the exact same plot of every other movie where the pets are lost in the city and have to make their way back to their owners. Homeward Bound and Oliver and Company are two that initially came to my mind. But there's lots of them. And The Secret Life of Pets makes zero effort whatsoever to do something unique and different. Zero. And it literally took me out of the movie. Granted kids that watch this movie aren't going to care about this. That's why I said they'll love it. But for me as an adult, plot is important to me. It frustrates me when I watch a movie that I feel is a complete rip-off of something else and thus I found little entertainment value in this movie.

The characters are cute. I'm a sucker for animals. I'm a dog person. And I'm a cat person. And I'm a pet rat person. And I'm a snake person. Basically I love all types of pets. I grew up with mainly cats, but we had a few dogs along the way as well as an assortment of other animals. I also love going to zoos or petting zoos or reptile houses or pretty much anything that has to do with animals. Because of that, I couldn't help but love all these little characters. All of the little animal isms for each pet was done very well. They got all the personalities spot on, which was fun. The voice acting for all of these creatures was also phenomenal. I felt like Illumination managed to find the perfect voice for each of our creatures. This includes, but is not limited to, Louis C.K., Kevin Hart, Albert Brooks, Dana Carvey, Hannibal Burress, and Steve Coogan. Quite the collection of voice actors there, all of whom did good. Even Kevin Hart. That's the second straight movie by him where he has entertained me instead of driven me up the wall. With this, the beginning and end of the movie where the owners leave and then return again was good for me. But that was just five minutes at the beginning and five minutes at the end. We had a huge middle portion that was a real chore for me to get through.

No, this is not unwatchably bad. This is not as bad as other animated movies from this year like Norm of the North or They Angry Birds Movie. I just expected a lot more from this. There were plenty of chuckles along the way. Some individual clever moments or funny lines. But there was no gut-busting laughter. I wasn't laughing hysterically throughout like I was during Finding Dory and I didn't feel charmed like I did while I was watching The BFG. It was just very average and very meh. And there's a few things that they did towards the second half of the movie that I need to point out. If you remember my Finding Dory review, I mentioned that there was a moment at the end of that movie that goes full-out Fast and Furious. Same thing here. Except multiply it by ten. It got a little ridiculous. The Finding Dory scene entertained me. This one was a little over the top. The other thing I have to mention is that Illumination literally advertised for their next movie inside of this one. And it wasn't subtle. In December they have this movie called Sing coming out, which is a like an animal version of American Idol. There is a Sing movie poster on a bus in this movie that they show several times. I've never seen that done that blatantly. It caught me off guard.

This is not a bad movie by any means. I just don't think there's too much cross-appeal to kids and adults this time around for Illumination. Now if you're an adult and you loved this movie, don't take any offense to what I just said. Obviously there are going to be plenty of adults who love this and plenty of kids who don't. But in general terms, I think this is going to be a movie that has a lot more appeal with the kids. If you're a parent, your kids will love this. You should show it to them eventually. But I think it can wait. Buy this on DVD and use it to distract them in the mornings when you have stuff to do around the house. That would be a great use for this movie. Outside that, though, I really don't think there's much else to this. If you are single or don't have kids, I think there are plenty of other movies that are more worth your time this summer. It's a fun idea. The animals are all great. The voice acting is spot on. The animation is well done. But the story for me gets a big, fat F from me because of the serious lack of originality or creativity. And there's not enough laughs or emotion to make me overlook that. Illumination wasn't able to harness their inner Pixar this time around and thus I am going to give The Secret Life of Pets a 6/10.

1 comment:

  1. "But the story for me gets a big, fat F from me because of the serious lack of originality or creativity. And there's not enough laughs or emotion to make me overlook that."

    I agree 100%. Nice review.

    - Zach