Monday, July 11, 2016

Movie Review #452: "The Secret Life of Pets" (2016)

Movie"The Secret Life of Pets"
Director: Yarrow Cheney and Chris Renaud
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
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A dog named Max (Louis C.K.) has a great life with his owner Katie (Ellie Kemper), but this all changes when she brings home a new dog from the pound named Duke (Eric Stonestreet). Angry, jealous, and not liking Duke one bit, Max has plans to get him out of his and Katie's lives for good. When this plan goes awry, both Max and Duke wind up lost in the city without their collars and tags. Now, they have to find their way home while simultaneously avoiding animal control and a maniacal bunny named Snowball (Kevin Hart), who is planning on leading an animal uprising. Meanwhile, Max's neighbor Gidget (Jenny Slate) leads a rescue party across the city to find her missing friend.

Did you ever wonder what your pets do when you aren't around? This is the question that is explored in Illumination Studios' latest release, "The Secret Life of Pets." This animated feature film boasts a stellar cast of actors lending their voices to this project, including the likes of Louis C.K., one of our favorites, Ellie Kemper, Eric Stonestreet, Jenny Slate, Kevin Hart, Lake Bell, Albert Brooks, Hannibal Buress, Bobby Moynihan, and Dana Carvey. The story revolves around a little dog named Max, voiced by C.K., whose life is turned upside down when his owner Katie, voice by Kemper, brings home a new dog from the pound named Duke, voiced by Stonestreet. In an effort to "mark his territory," IE: Katie's love and affections and their house together, Max is standoffish with Duke and wants to get rid of him, but Duke's equal attempts to rid himself of Max make them both get lost in the city, without their collars, and on an adventure through New York to find their way back home, all while meeting new characters at every turn.

This is a very cute movie that offers up a lot of laughs and some great main characters. The filmmakers and animators have done a good job capturing the mannerisms of real dogs and cats and including them within their movie characters. These mannerisms are the blended with their more anthropomorphic qualities to create some fun and unique pets! As dog lovers ourselves, we appreciate this attention to detail and can relate to the film in more ways than one. We liked the characters of Max, Snowball, Gidget, and Tiberius the falcon, but most of the other dogs and pets simply fill out the background, and we're even having a hard time remembering their names without looking them up. The plot itself is very simple and very familiar. We got a "Toy Story" vibe from this movie, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it certainly is a tall order. Max and Duke have a very similar arc to Woody and Buzz Lightyear, and Snowball the maniacal bunny has many similarities to Lotso from "Toy Story 3." We can forgive these similarities because at this point, nearly everything any movie has to offer has been done before, so derivation is expected. There are a couple of times where the filmmakers set up plot points with the chance to do a touching, really emotional, "Toy Story"-esque moment, but they failed to fully capitalize on these instances. In the hands of more capable writers, these moments could have easily raised the ratings of this film across the board. Lastly, we don't want to give too much away, but there is a fantastically hilarious scene involving singing sausages on Max and Duke's journey, and this was our favorite part of the movie.

In the end, "The Secret Life of Pets" might not be a timeless classic and might miss some opportunities for a better, more engaging story, but it is a great family adventure comedy we enjoyed quite a bit., if you can get over the fact that a lot of the movie is given away in the trailer. We're sure kids will love this one, and adults certainly won't hate themselves for having to watch it, either.

My Rating: 6.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 6.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 75%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?
One year ago, we were watching: "Dope"

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