Review: ‘The Secret Life of Pets’, With Louis C.K., Kevin Hart, Jenny Slate, and More

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There are plenty of original stories or plots of intrigue just waiting to be told. However, “The Secret Life of Pets” is one of those animated films that is neither original nor all that intriguing. It has cute characters, but the plot is a mess. Simply put, it’s a film that would have been far more effective as a short.

For a dog, Max (Louis C.K.) has got it all. Living in Manhattan, he has an apartment all to himself during the day and has an owner who adores him. They do everything together and he is the center of her entire world. It’s fair to say that Max is a spoiled dog without much care for anything else. Case in point, he waits loyally by the door every night for his owner to step through, exchanging simple hellos to the neighboring pets–Gidget (Jenny Slate), Chloe (Lake Bell), and Mel (Bobby Moynihan), among others.

When Max’s owner brings home a new addition to their family, a big, shaggy dog named Duke (Eric Stonestreet), Max is less than pleased. In an attempt to get rid of Duke, Max leads him away from their group during a park walk. However, Duke sees it coming and the pair wind up in the midst of an adventure, which includes being chased down by a hardened street bunny (Kevin Hart), all while fighting to find their way back home.

There are plenty of cute characters (there are a LOT of characters in general), but none of which have the ability to remain memorable after the film’s credits have rolled. To the film’s credit, it does try. The animation itself is beautiful and the colorful touches it adds to New York City are wonderful. However, this isn’t enough to put the film on the map or be enjoyable enough for both adults and children.

The jokes fall flat, the conflict between Max and Duke is partly contrived in order to send them on their journey through the city, and the relationships between the characters don’t gel well enough to hold the story together. An example of this is Gidget’s persistent attempts to gather everyone to save Max. She’s stubborn and unfailing in her loyalty, declaring herself his girlfriend. What? We barely saw them interact and now she’s being upgraded to add a personal layer besides friendship to the rescue? More interaction between them may have helped this particular part of their relationship be more believable, but it doesn’t sit well as it is.

The basic plot is a rehash of “Toy Story” and even Duke’s background of having had an owner who loved him and lost him (but not because he was abandoned) is a reminder of Jesse’s similar back story from “Toy Story 2.” The film knows what the ending will be, but the journey getting there is uneven and generic. What the film ultimately lacks is any heart. There are no heartwarming moments and no real camaraderie between the characters. This isn’t to say that kids may not enjoy the film for what it is, but in terms of good plot and great characters, “The Secret Life of Pets” falls short of being anything worthwhile.

50%
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Underwhelming

"The Secret Life of Pets" is a less than mediocre animation that has cute characters but no heart and a plot that is all over the place.

2.5star

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About Author

Mae is a Washington, DC-based film critic and entertainment journalist. A member of the Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), she's a geek who loves talking about movies and TV. She is also a voting member of the Black Reel Awards and writes for Punch Drunk Critics, Woman Around Town and The Young Folks. If she's not at the movies, she's catching up on TV watching with a glass of wine in hand.

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