For the movie’s Saturday at 10am screening, my hungover state of being was not fit for this theater full of children’s laughter and bright images, but through all of my nausea I could tell that The Secret Life of Pets was nothing but spoon-fed entertainment with all promises properly fabricated by movie trailer-makers. The funny trailer turns out to be an opening montage that lays the groundwork for a bland retread of Toy Story’s “how do you know what happens if you’re not there?” gimmick, but barely scrapes the barrel with this idea like Toy Story did with a much more engaging and pleasing reality.
Boisterous young terrier Max (the OG pet, voiced by Louis C.K.) and wooly Newfoundland Duke (Eric Stonestreet) find themselves swallowed by the dangerous New York City streets and sewer systems, and their adventures don’t lack in energy. They fall into a sausage factory and sing a Grease-inspired “We Go Together” rendition vis-à-vis sausages, run into trouble with a group of rejected sewer pets led by a vicious but adorably animated bunny (Kevin Hart), and are constantly being chased by a goofy pair of human animal control workers whose fruitless attempts at capture are silent-film reminiscent. All the while, other household pets (also all voiced by comedians) are on the search for Max and Duke, and this litter of pet personalities provides a variety of entertainment for the children, while references to films like The Fugitive and Some Like it Hot are enough to produce an adult chuckle here and there.
I’ve been trying to avoid sounding as ADD as the movie itself, but The Secret Life of Pets is overstuffed with dancing wiener sequences and butt-sniffing gags that it leaves no room for emotional payoff or character investment. All of it’s quick jokes seem to go against the calculated nature of it’s stand-up comedian cast, and it’s endless jests will have it’s audience leaving the theater with no recollection of substantive material. I hate to make the Pixar comparison here, but if you’re going to the theater to see an animated movie this weekend, I do suggest Finding Dory over this one.
Unlike similarly animal-centric like this year’s Zootopia (which is magnitudes better), The Secret Life of Pets is a void of entertainment that avoids all sharp turns into actual topics like the domestication of pets and the inhumanity of abandoning them to deliver an ending with no heartfelt message to send the kids home with. It’s excessive marketing through television airtime, Snapchat filters, and train car posters gives me PTSD flashbacks to last year’s Minions appearing on, and consequently destroying, everything I loved, but at least these animals are cutely animated with their fluff that just begs to be petted. The most amusing time I had with The Secret Life of Pets was walking home post-screening and strolling alongside real-life dogs on leashes, being led by their owners with loyalty. I imagined what they would be saying and laughed to myself as I pictured the tiny lap dogs having thoughts of violent world domination. If only.