The Secret Life Of Pets

This animated feature from Illumination – the makers of the Despicable Me and Minions films – has been one of the bigger hits of the summer to date, and I suppose it serves as confirmation that the studio’s ouptut is as popular as that of its rivals Disney and Pixar, even if critical praise has been less forthcoming. While adults may find it a little tiring, I can totally see why this film has struck a chord with young children, with its plethora of cute, talking animals and the extended air of chaos that permeates proceedings. What we have here, essentially, is Toy Pet Story, with two dogs (voiced by Louis C.K. and Eric Stonestreet) competing for their owner’s attention in a New York apartment, before eventually getting lost in the city and having a protracted adventure while trying to make it home. Dozens more characters (a variety of different animals) are thrown at the screen in the hope that some of them stick, and actually there’s some decent voice work here from a few of the actors roped in for a day or two of line readings, such as Steve Coogan, Dana Carvey and Kevin Hart, but it’s all a bit messy as it veers from one group of animals making their way around the city to another, and more than a little repetitive, with only a brief flight of fancy in a sausage factory to break up the monotony. That’s unfortunate, because the opening ten minutes – in which we see pets getting up to no good at home while their owners are at work – is full of smart, observational comedy (even though the best jokes all appeared in the trailer). We have to wait until the last two minutes for writing of a comparable standard, which basically means that I’m a sentimental fool and I enjoyed all the material about pets loving their owners and their owners loving them back that bookends the constant running around. Anyway, usual caveats apply: kids seem to love it – the pint-sized weirdos – so I suppose you have to appreciate that the film is an unqualified commercial success, and there’s no denying its good nature, either. Also, I thought Idris Elba’s presence in animated films was now mandatory. What gives?

Directed by: Chris Renaud, Yarrow Cheney.
Written by: Brian Lynch, Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio.
Starring: Louis C.K, Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart, Jennie Slate, Ellie Kemper, Dana Carvey, Lake Bell, Steve Coogan, Bobby Moynihan, Albert Brooks.
Art direction: Colin Stimpson.
Editing: Ken Schretzmann.
Alexandre Desplat.
Running Time:

Comments 9

  1. Keith July 31, 2016

    I did enjoy this one more than I expected. That middle part does bring it down a bit. Really love the opening and I enjoyed all of the scenes where the pet friends were together. But the whole militant white bunny and underground movement stuff didn’t work for me.

    • Stu August 1, 2016

      No, me neither…it hit a low at the rabbit poop joke! I think another ten minutes at either end of general day-to-day secret lives of the various pets would have been great, but to be fair that’s just a personal taste thing and the film as it stands seems to be well liked.

  2. Jason August 1, 2016

    I agree with Keith above. While Hart’s Snowball was pretty funny, make him the main antagonist of the film (along with his whole underground movement) didn’t work for me. The same with the parallel themes to Toy Story. Beyond that, I did like it. The beginning was pretty funny, the voice talents were awesome, and it was a light animated movie.

    • Stu August 1, 2016

      Yeah the rabbit was in it way too much…I liked the idea of an underground resistance for abandoned pets, but would have preferred it to be dealt with in much the same way as the cat gang: pretty amusing to know it exists, and the rest can be left to the imagination.

  3. Peter S August 1, 2016

    My seven year old liked this better than ‘Finding Dory’. According to his friends, they all like it better too. So which one is the better film if the target audience prefers the less critically acclaimed one?

    i think you’re right, that scene in the sausage factory was a bit weird, and it needed more time with the people.

  4. Tom August 1, 2016

    It’s a shame this didn’t end up becoming something more special. I was totally hooked by the trailers! This looked like it could have had a clever commentary on the nature of the owner-pet relationship; albeit it would have been a pretty shameless riff on Toy Story of course but I was up for that. By the sounds of it it gets distracted from that with a routine adventure tale. Nothing wrong with that, either of course but I think I’ll sit this one out after all. Man this summer has not been kind in terms of anticipated treats.

    • Stu August 2, 2016

      I liked the look of it from the trailer, too, but a lot of those jokes are in the first ten minutes…it’s a shame, really. My fault for watching trailers! Actually the adventure stuff isn’t terrible, it’s just that it hits that note from about 15 minutes and stays on it to 1 hr 20 or so. But kids like it, and there are some good moments therein.

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