Inspired, albeit familiar. Did you know that while you’re at work all day, your pets don’t just wait by the door, they break out of the house and have their own crazy adventures? This is about a pair of dogs who do just that, and while they are constantly at odds with one another, they’re going to have to learn how to work together if they’re going to want to make it back home. I’m not opposed to Illumination Entertainment, I’m just not wholly won over by them. They’re the company that understands what a license to print money that the Minions are, and they haven’t done anything that has really impressed me since the original Despicable Me. The Secret Life of Pets is easily the second best thing they have done.
It’s hard not to be won over by these animals.
Now the biggest critique I’ve heard about this is the one that this film plainly wears on its sleeves: this is totally Toy Story. Listen to this: A character that is very comfortable with his living space gets his world rocked when an outsider comes and upsets the status quo. They’re consistently butting heads, and it isn’t long before they find themselves away from the place that they call home, and they must accept each other and become friends to make it back to their owner. The description fits both movies to the letter. That said, when you really think about it, about one in four animated movies is about people/animals that are trying to find their way home, only this is the one that borrows the most liberally from Toy Story. I like the voice actors in this, and I think Louie C.K. is a natural for this type of affair with his deadpan voice. Kevin Hart is even good as this insane maniacal bunny rabbit… to a point. It isn’t too long before he is falling back on Kevin Hart-isms, and I do think he could have pulled back a bit for this role.
A little dab of Hart will usually do.
This moves so fast that it gives you very little time to think. I’m glad to see a movie where this studio didn’t have to resort to gangs of characters that mumble incoherent nonsense and needlessly get into mayhem, like with Minions and The Lorax. Kids will dig it for the cute and colorful animals, and there are enough jokes for adults that they will not be bored. For example, there is this one incredibly surreal scene with music from Grease in a sausage factory where I thought somebody slipped something into my drink. It’s a movie that’s mostly founded on sight gags, but it is solid.
The Secret Life of Pets (2016) ***1/2
– Critic for Hire