The Secret Life of Pets (2016) ★★☆☆☆

What happens when you have to leave your pet for the day? 

A loyal dog, Max (Louis C.K.), is horrified when his owner, Katie, arrives home with another (and much larger) dog named Duke (Eric Stonestreet). The two dogs don’t exactly get along, leading to them being lost in New York City. Along the way, Max and Duke meet several other pets.

The opening scene offered a lot of laughs, perfectly capturing the mannerisms and traits of our beloved pets. The producers’ attention to detail here is commendable; it’s a shame the whole sequence was their trailer. Perhaps if the remainder of the film continued in this clever form, the film would have been hugely successful, and even original. Visually, the animation is splendid – New York City scapes and bright-eyed pets delightfully fill the screen. Gidget and Max in particular, are likeable, though the rest of the pets act as sardines, crammed into the tin in attempt to make a full picture. What the producers didn’t take into account, was that quality is much preferred to quantity in terms of character development. Kevin Hart’s character, Snowball, acts as an irritant throughout the film, not the most ideal voice casting here. As for the narrative, The Secret Life of Pets feels all too familiar, screaming “Toy Story” right from the word “go”…Duke  and Max easily mirror Buzz and Woody. Derivation has to be expected every now and then, but there wasn’t an ounce of originality here, causing each sequence to fall flat. Sadly, this made for a tiresome watch, not a joyful one.

Just when you thought The Secret Life of Pets flaunted an original premise on the tin…it is entirely unoriginal, only to resemble dog food that has been spat out and eaten again. Leaving no room for character development becomes its biggest flaw. Compare this to the recent works of Disney’s Zootopia and Pixar’s Inside Out, and this feels even more like milk-and-water. Even its excessive marketing couldn’t hide its weak plot. Had different writers handled the script better, this could have been a real treat. To mediocre and beyond…

14 thoughts on “The Secret Life of Pets (2016) ★★☆☆☆

  1. I had no interest in this to begin with, and after reading your review, I’ll just stay away entirely. You’re 100% right: after recent films like Inside Out and Zootopia, the standard for animated films has just been set way too high for mediocrity like this. Great work!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi! Thanks for the comments on my own post! I agree with everything you’ve said here. I didn’t initially see the parallels between this movie and Toy Story, but now, it is so obvious. Especially when you consider the gang of human-hating animals is basically a kind of reverse-Sid. I also agree that the most entertaining parts was the opening sequence (and the end where we see the humans return to love their pets.) It definitely doesn’t hold a candle to the other animated movies out there. I’ll be posting something later this week on creativity in the movie-making history and I’ll love to hear your thoughts on that as well!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great review. I do see now your analogy when it comes to The Secret Life of Pets mirroring Toy Story in some ways. The opening scene of the movie was certainly funny, but if it had gone on for the entire movie, I feel like the jokes would have gotten repetitive and ceased to be entertaining. The movie unfortunately did not have the runtime to support much character development, but I think we got to see enough of the handful of main characters that we know what they’re about. Certainly not a masterpiece but the animation was fantastic and the adventure through the city kept it from monotony for me.

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  4. I actually enjoyed the movie. Yes, the movie doesn’t so as much of the “secret life” as was promised and the narrative does sort of mirror that of Toy Story. However, it was a still a fun movie. Yes, its not as clever as Zootopia or Inside Out, but it was entertaining and you could do far worse of an animated tale.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Absolutely agree with your review. This film seems really shallow and unless the writers are top notch (Which they clearly are not) then the concept is going to get very old very quickly. At most, I’ll see this on DVD at some point, but I’m certainly in no hurry. It’s a shame that they’re already coming out with a sequel to this. I have a feeling that it’s probably going to bomb.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. While I appreciate your thoughts, and everyone has their tastes, I found it to be entertaining. It wasn’t stellar I agree, but I thought it did have some merit. It did resemble Toy Story, but the film generated enough character, dialogue, and story for me to appreciate it on a certain level. Great work.

    Liked by 1 person

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