The Secret Life of Pets  (2016)

Sometimes it's nice to get away from torture and drugs and murder (and murder and murder) and just watch a goofy movie for kids. I admit that my usual tastes lean towards the dark or inappropriate side, so it's the duty of my wife to occasionally get me to watch something simple. This time around, she chose "The Secret Life of Pets", and I assure you, there is no murder.

Max is a dog living in New York City with his owner Katie. They have a perfect life together, in a nice apartment in a building where every single unit is occupied by a pet-owner. Once all those owners leave, the various cats and dogs and birds and guinea pigs get together to spend the day doing what we all like to imagine our pets do when we're not around. It's human nature to treat our pets like people, and this movie does a great job of portraying that mindset.

Based on the initial trailer, the entire movie would be just vignettes of animals doing silly things, but that wouldn't be worth more than twenty or so minutes. To stretch things out to a full-length movie, a new dog is introduced to Katie and Max's life, the dogs get separated from their dog-walking group, a weird anti-human animal revolution is growing in the sewers and after a failed recruitment declares war on the surface pets, enemies become friends, and {spoiler alert} everybody hugs at the end.

The voice cast in this movie is pretty fantastic. Louie CK is one of my favorite comics, and his sitcom is incredible - it was a bit odd to hear his voice coming from a cute dog after some of the vulgarity I've heard him spew. I adore Jenny Slate, and she is perfect as a cute Pomeranian who has a crush on Max and leads the effort to rescue him. I wasn't too fond of Kevin Hart as Snowball, the rabbit leader of the "Flushed Pets", the pack warring against humans. The voice, and the character, and I guess the premise, just grated on me and never felt comfortable. Supporting voices from Lake Bell, Bobby Moynihan and Steve Coogan (still a favorite of mine) were great.

Outside of the great voicework and the superb animation, I just felt like something was missing. Pixar movies are notorious for punching your feels in the gut, and Illumination Entertainment (who put out the Despicable Me series) are just a step behind them. Even with the expected emotional cues, this movie never really tugged at my heart-strings. The story of the tension between old dog and new dog was uninteresting, and the sewer pet revolution never trapped me. Still, when the movie was done I wanted to run home and roll around on the floor with my two dogs.

 

 

On the [Celluloid Hero] scale, "The Secret Life of Pets" gets a 5 out of 10.

 

 

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