Lifting its leg on screens everywhere this weekend, The Secret Life of Pets is the highly anticipated and colorfully animated look at what happens behind our closed doors when we’re not around… It’s Pets Gone Wild – except not in the wild, in the jungle of the Big Apple. With high caliber voice talent and an animation house (Illumination Entertainment) known for its high-energy success with the Despicable Me franchise – it’s a shame that this flick almost exclusively sticks to the same chaos-riddled game plan as its big screen brothers and sisters (while copying a proven formula from a far superior entertainment group). Aside from some cuddly characters and its opening 11 minutes (that actually do deliver on the inspired premise of its trailer and title), The Secret Life of Pets is a blatant rip-off of the initial adventures of Woody and Buzz – but this time with mostly dogs, so let’s call it Chew-Toy Story. The screwball and disproportionate animation is lackluster and not completely easy on the eyes, the message is commonplace and rushed (been done to death in far better films) and the whole thing – once the critters ditch their digs for the city – becomes an unimaginative and spastically unoriginal mess. And it’s all cobbled together with a shovel-to-the-face subtlety that makes the Minions look like…well, the Minions are still the Minions and vastly more annoying than these obnoxiously adventurous fussy fur balls. They do, however, somehow – a tad late unfortunately – manage to reign things in and bring a little warmth to the finale. It’s this precise point of the film that’s sure to wrap most pet owners in a blanket of mind-erasing comfort that virtually makes the many faults of the film disappear. With two B+’s at the ready, my youngest boys (ages 6 and 9) seemed to enjoy it – but when those two don’t tell me a particular movie (after just having seen the movie) is the best they’ve seen all year…then something is definitely amiss. For the record, they preferred Zootopia, Finding Dory and Kung Fu Panda to this… The Secret Life of Pets may very well be burying the box office champion bone in their backyard this weekend – but come Monday, they’ll never find it again. Forgettable animal hi-jinks at its most average.
Starring the voices of: Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, Lake Bell, Jenny Slate and Kevin Hart
Directed by: Chris Renaud (Despicable Me, Despicable Me 2 and Minions) and Yarrow Cheney
Running time: 1hr 30min
Story: Taking place in a Manhattan apartment building, Max's life as a favorite pet is turned upside down, when his owner brings home a sloppy mongrel named Duke. They have to put their quarrels behind, when they find out that an adorable white bunny named Snowball is building an army of abandoned pets determined to take revenge on all happy-owned pets and their owners.