Ever wondered what your pets are doing while you are not home? Well this film, kind of, answers it with Illumination Entertainment’s new film ‘The Secret Life of Pets’. Illumination has had a mixed track record, ‘Despicable Me’ is by far their most creative and best work so far, while ‘Despicable Me 2’ and ‘Minions’ have moments, despite being in a bit of a flat movie. Is ‘The Secret Life of Pets’ their next ‘Despicable Me’ or is it as forgettable as ‘The Lorax’?
The film is about an owner, Katie, and her pet, Max. However, things change and Max has suddenly got a brother named Duke who both hate each other as Max’s territory is invaded by a large dog who constantly gets what he wants. Oh, and then there are subplots about a pack of pets and a fluffy bunny named Snowball?
This film is constantly enjoyable to watch filled with some very good laughs and some heartfelt scenes, reflecting back on what made ‘Despicable Me’ so great. I love dogs, I have two dogs at home, one a Maltese Shih Tzu and the other a beagle. This film does such a good job at capturing these mannerisms that dogs, and even cats, do to mostly humorous effect.
And it doesn’t help that the characters are likeable. You get where Max comes from as he shares a loving bond with his owner Katie, when suddenly that bond is broken thanks to Katie adopting another dog who is larger than Max. It sort of mirrors my own dogs’ behaviour as first they didn’t get along, but eventually became good friends, and that’s the type of friendship that’s on display between Max and Duke. Gidget was a surprisingly fun character, who you think is just another character that has a crush on the main protagonist, but has many great character moments, including one as she interrogates a cat. Don’t get this dog on her bad side. As well, Gidget and Tiberius are a lot of fun and really liked their friendship towards the two, even though I was guessing who the voice was. Why was I thinking it was Bill Murray? It turned out to be Albert Brooks who voices Marlin the clownfish in both ‘Finding Nemo’ and this year’s much talked about sequel ‘Finding Dory’. I will also say that Kevin Hart’s character Snowball was a cool villain, even though some of the lines said made me question if I was still watching a G rated film here as the film shockingly has a lot of dark humour.
While I did enjoy it, there are a lot of questionable scenes, mainly towards the film’s middle act which slows this film down. We have this neat scene of the old dog Pops who helps the pack of pets to save Max, however when they get to their goal, it is completely wasted. The only point was for Gidget to know that Max is in trouble with a rabbit. That’s it! Couldn’t have thought harder for her to find out? Nope, we wanted to see the snake, and show up for five seconds after a five minute road trip scene to get here. Really? Oh, and then there is a sausage party with singing. I won’t go anymore into that other than only to serve up their friend status between Max and Duke. It was jaw dropping, because it comes basically out of nowhere.
Despite some flaws, these are tiny flaws in a film that has a lot to enjoy, thanks to likeable characters, some good laughs and a not too shabby story, even if it is similar to Pixar’s ‘Toy Story’, it’s not a rip-off, it just has some similarities.
In the end, ‘The Secret Life of Pets’ is a good film that both kids and adults can find some enjoyment. It’s a film that’s hard to dislike completely.