The Secret Life of Pets full movie review - Don't keep it to yourself - "The Secret Life of Pets" is great family fun!
When you see as many movies as I do (and you start writing reviews in your head while you're watching them), certain movies, parts of movies, plot points or characters remind you of other movies.
In my reviews, I often note those parallels, using them to comment on the movie I'm reviewing. Sometimes I note similarities between movies to say that the more recent film is unoriginal. Other times, it's just to help explain what the new movie is like. The animated adventure comedy "The Secret Life of Pets" (PG, 1:30) reminds me very much of two other animated features? but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Tell me if this sounds familiar: Someone's possessions (as he or she views them) actually have secret lives of their own which are only really apparent when the owner is not around. These anthropomorphic possessions relate to each other and form friendships. When a newer version of the original is brought into the group, jealousy emerges and the original tries to get rid of the interloper. This struggle results in both of the rivals being thrust out of the comforts of home into the little-understood big, bad world, a situation which requires their compadres to venture out of their own comfort zones to mount a rescue.
That set-up fits Illumination Entertainment's 2016 "The Secret Life of Pets" as well as it does the 1995 Pixar/Disney classic film "Toy Story". (Think, "Pet Story", or "The Secret Life of Toys".) But considering that the 2016 film is about animals rather than toys, maybe the better comparison is to another 2016 animated feature (also from Disney) by the name of "Zootopia". In both of those 2016 films, a couple of anthropomorphic animals (among many others living in a big city) form a partnership which develops into a mutually beneficial friendship. I guess it's not unfair to think of "The Secret Life of Pets" as a mash-up of "Toy Story" and "Zootopia". Nevertheless, this one charts its own unique course and is as entertaining as those other two? or the "Despicable Me" films, also from Illumination Entertainment.
Now that you know what "The Secret Life of Pets" is LIKE, here's what it's ABOUT: The movie focuses on a small brown and white terrier named Max (voiced by Louis C.K.) and his relationship with the other pets in his apartment building. Max lives in a small Manhattan apartment with his owner, a young woman named Katie (Ellie Kemper). When Katie goes to work each day, Max sits at the door wondering where she has gone and waiting for her to come back and play with him. Meanwhile, the pets in the building across the alley and above and below his apartment (and one guniea pig lost in the air ducts) are more active in their daily lives (and more mobile) than is readily apparent. (Thus, the title of the film.) Some of the neighborhood pets include an overweight white cat named Chloe (Lake Bell), a bulldog named Mel (Bobby Moynihan), a dachshund named Buddy (Hannibal Buress), a canary named Sweet Pea (Tara Strong), and Gidget (Jenny Slate), a white Pomeranian who has a secret crush on Max.
Except for missing Katie during the day, all is well in Max's little world? until one not-so-fine day when Katie brings home another dog she rescued from a shelter. Duke (Eric Stonestreet) is a large, shaggy, dark brown dog who has no problem throwing his weight around to get the best place to sleep, or as much food as he wants, or? anything else. Max starts scheming about how to get rid of Duke, but one such attempt while they're in the park with Katie's dog walker back-fires and sets both Max and Duke off on a wild and dangerous journey around the city. When Gidget realizes that Max has disappeared, she enlists their mutual pet friends, plus a caged hawk named Tiberius (Albert Brooks), and a few other neighborhood pets (including the Dana Carvey voiced "Pops"), to help her find Max. Meanwhile, Max and Duke have to try escaping from animal control workers, a disfigured alley cat named Ozone (Steve Coogan) and a small, but crazed and bitter bunny named Snowball (Kevin Hart), who was discarded by the magician he worked for and now leads a sewer-dwelling group of radicals called The Flushed Pets, who are bent on wiping out all the humans ? and who decide that Max and Duke are also their enemies.
"The Secret Life of Pets" is every bit as entertaining as you'd hope, based on its theatrical trailers, or its movie posters, or just its title. Co-writers Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio and Brian Lynch exploit many of the well-known quirks of different kinds of pets, but give each character in the film its own personality. Then, once the script clearly establishes who each of these characters are, it gives them plenty to do, but without making the story unnecessarily complicated. Co-directors Chris Renaud (who also voices the aforementioned lost guinea pig) and Yarrow Cheney bring this promising concept and excellent script to realization by keeping the plot moving and not overdoing any of the film's big ideas or overplaying any of the gags. Finally, with the film's impressive voice cast and the filmmakers' "Despicable" history, the performances and the visuals are excellent across the board. On the critical side, I found a subplot involving Duke's backstory and a "Grease"-inspired sausage-fueled dream sequence to be odd and unnecessary diversions, and I would've liked to see just a little more originality and inspiration sprinkled throughout the movie. However, there's no denying that "The Secret Life of Pets" is very well-done good, clean fun for the whole family. "A-"