The Secret Life of Pets (2016)

  • Time: 90 min
  • Genre: Animation | Comedy | Family
  • Directors: Chris Renaud, Yarrow Cheney
  • Cast: Ellie Kemper, Lake Bell, Kevin Hart, Jenny Slate, Albert Brooks, Steve Coogan


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.


  • (RATING: ☆☆☆☆ out of 5)


    IN BRIEF: Too many chase scenes detour a good movie down the wrong path.
    GRADE: B

    SYNOPSIS: Pets’ private moments (without their owner) get more complicated for two dogs lost in the real world.

    The unconditional love and endearing behavior of a pet infuses me with a giddy sense of outright joy. As a life-time pet owner and an avid dog lover, I realize the importance of a four-legged friend in one’s life. A pet will bring out your inner child and my latest member to the family, Zoey, is happiness personified.

    In the animated film, The Secret Life of Pets, animals are personified as well, taking on human traits, especially when their master is away. That is the on-going premise of this film and since I may be a tad biased, as my interest in this film was as comparable as my dog’s overwrought joy in getting a new stuffed toy, I have decided to let my intelligent and sensitive pooch handle the reviewing. So….

    ZOEY’S REVIEW: Hello, dear moviegoers. It’s me, Zoey! For those who may not know me, I am a miniature wirehair dachshund with a high I.Q. and I love food, people, playing with toys, and watching cars and movies, in that order. I was asked by my owner, whom I call Daddy Jim, to review a new movie called The Secret Life of Pets, a film that does a disservice to animals in general for spilling the beans about our private moments when you are not around. First off, don’t believe it. We are trustworthy creatures who avoid any possible danger. Remember this is not a documentary. It’s fiction! That said, I can honestly say that the film was funny and had some nice characters that I enjoyed, especially, the two alpha dogs, Max (Louis C.K.) and Duke (Eric Stonestreet).

    The story goes like this: One day Max’s owner, Katie (Ellie Kemper), brings home a new pet, Duke. Neither are overjoyed with the prospect of sharing their time or attention with their human friend. (I wouldn’t either, so already I relate to this situation.) So both go about sabotaging each others’ place in the house which leads to problems later.

    Now some of the shenanigans become too far fetched…did you say fetch?… especially as they are chased by a dog catcher…I know, a cliche….and meet up with a gang of strays led by an angry rabbit named Snowball (Kevin Hart), who dislike the tamed set…hmm, now that was an interesting development. While I was constantly amused by the movie and thoroughly enjoyed the lovely animation, the screenplay lacked depth and plot development. NO, I wasn’t expected Shakespeare, although Hamlet is one of my favorite reads, but I did want something more than one chase after another…and, mind you, I do love to chase rabbits in my yard. (I also did not need a jarring dream sequence that takes place at a meat factory that just doesn’t work. Its inclusion gives the film far more filler than any hot dog should endure.)

    Still The Secret Life of Pets has many humorous moments and captures the movements and nature of animals very well. It also establishes some strong characters with the other critters in the neighborhood, such as Gidget (Jenny Slate), who loves Max so dearly, Chloe, a cat who loves no one but herself (like most cats I know), Tiberius (Albert Brooks), a hawk who continually fights his true hunting instincts, and Buddy (Hannibal Buress), a smooth dachshund to whom I particularly related. as I enjoy his noble breed so much.

    Now I know animals cannot speak human, even though I am very verbal…just ask my daddy. So I was very surprised to hear the animals converse in English…that is, until I saw the end credits and understood. So, there is good voiceover work by most actors in these roles, particularly Mr. C. K., Mr. Stonestreet, that veteran of voiceovers, Mr. Brooks, and Ms. Bell, although Mr. Hart and Ms. Slate’s vocal demands are overdone and too intense for my liking.

    While the animals in The Secret Life of Pets are not as smart of as sweet as me, they certainly will win you over. The film is fine family entertainment and filled with charm and…oops, gotta go…dinnertime!

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  • When growing up as a kid, there’s almost a 100% guarantee that at some point a parent will here their child ask for a pet. Whether it’s a gold fish, cat, dog, ferret, frog, rabbit, snail or whatever, humans have been domesticating animals for quite some time. There’s just something about our pets that we enjoy. The fact that they share and display similar emotions to that of us is so heart warming. They all might express them in different ways but most owners know or understand what their fuzzy friends are feeling. However this is the only thing we comprehend about them on a personal level. They can’t speak to us in our native tongue or vise versa and we have no clue what they do behind our backs or how they feel in the moment. When left up to the minds behind Despicable Me (2010) though, viewers will get a completely different perception. Will it make us think differently in what our pets do behind our backs to this extreme – no. But will it let us come up with crazy ideas as to what could happen – of course.

    This spin off series that runs parallel to the Despicable Me (2010) universe was directed by Yarrow Cheney (his theatrical debut) and Chris Renaud (Despicable Me (2010)). Three writers also collaborated on the script, that being Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio and Brian Lynch (Hop (2011)). The story follows Max (Louis C.K.), a puppy with a good life. His owner took him who found him when he was a baby and gave him everything to his hearts content. Things were great. Then unbeknownst to Max, his owner comes home with another dog named Duke (Eric Stonestreet). Feeling a bit slighted, Max and Duke end up learning that you have to give in order to get. Within that conflict the two end up crossing paths with Snowball (Kevin Hart), an eccentric bunny rabbit whose main goal in life is to overthrow the human race for his fellow abandoned pets. All the while, Max’s secret love interest Gidget (Jenny Slate) hopes to gain his affection at some point in time but she’s not sure how. Nevertheless she’s very determined to make it happen.

    The development among characters is proportional to the significance each role has. Through several experiences both Duke and Max learn a lot about themselves. Backstories are given for each, which is why their development works. What’s even more effective is how many viewers can relate because of comparable life experiences. Gidget as a love interest isn’t written so cliche either. The idea itself is rather turned on its head and that’s not seen very frequently. As for Snowball, he doesn’t have incredibly deep development but his background is made apparent. For the rest of the supporting characters, there aren’t too many complaints to have. The only character that doesn’t really have a clear motivation is Tiberius (Albert Brooks) the hawk. According to Tiberius, he’s sad to have no friends because his owner locks him away in a cage at the top of an apartment. Yet later on, audiences will see Tiberius being petted by his owner and they seem to be enjoying each other’s company,…so why is he upset again?

    The other blatant problem in the story’s writing is Max’s owner and every other pet’s owner for that matter. Apparently this whole movie plays out within a day’s time. Throughout the running time, Max and company go through a lot of locations in the city. Some not as clean as others. Yet somehow nobody smells his or her pet has been anywhere but home. Surely somebody’s pet would be coming off foul somewhere. What are the odds that they remained clean the whole time? That’s about as preposterous as Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s role in Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011) where her white dress did not get one smudge. Also the title is a bit misleading. The adventure the main leads go on is nothing that secret. There a few secret like activities that take place throughout the film, but much of it is so out in the open. Aside from this though the comedy and actor chemistry all blend well together. Both Louis C.K. and Eric Stonestreet practically sound like brothers and Kevin Hart makes Snowball likable and hilarious all at once.

    The other supporting character that has a number of great lines and best fits her role is Lake Bell as Chloe the cat. So much of her responses and sarcasm are exactly how many cat owners would expect their cat to react to certain situations. The animation is also enjoyable feature. Heading the animation is Salem Arfaoui as senior animator. Arfaoui has been a senior animator going all the way back with 9 (2009) while also participating in Despicable Me (2010), The Lorax (2012) and Despicable Me 2 (2013). The musical score on the other hand was okay but nothing outstanding. Composed by Alexandre Desplat, the music is appropriate to the surroundings with real orchestral instruments but there’s no reoccurring theme for the audience to remember. Especially if this is being planned as another franchise, there should be a main theme too. This is what really helps solidify the characters and story. Desplat was also the composer to Unbroken (2014), Godzilla (2014) and The Imitation Game (2014). Especially for such big films, one would expect something.

    Definitely an entertaining family movie for all ages. It’s strongest point is that it can relate to almost any viewer because of how frequently we as a human race go through pets in our lives. The writing is mostly well balanced with a few questionable tidbits. The music isn’t truly memorable but the actors and animation are fun to watch.

    Points Earned –> 7:10

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