FILM REVIEW – ‘THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS’ (2016)

Friday, July 8th, 2016 marks the official release date of The Secret Life of PetsNerd Nation was in attendance for an early preview screening Wednesday, June 15th for this family friendly animated comedy courtesy of Regal Cinemas, Illumination Entertainment, and Universal Pictures.

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The Secret Life of Pets is a story about Max, voiced by comedian Louis C.K., and his owner Katie, voice by Ellie Kemper (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt). They live happily together until one day she brings home a new stray name Duke, voiced by Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family). This does not sit well with Max, and the two bicker and fight which ends up leading them astray at the dog park, and they are left to fend for themselves against animal control and a gang of human hating abandoned pets led by the diabolical bunny Snowball, voiced by comedian Kevin Hart. Also looking for the two missing pets are Max’s friends from the building he lives in, which includes a wiener dog voiced by Hannibal Buress, a paralyzed basset hound voiced by Dana Carvey, a fat and apathetic cat voiced by Lake Bell (Children’s Hospital), an hungry and murderous hawk voiced by Albert Brooks (Finding Nemo and Taxi Driver), and a fluffy pampered dog in love with Max voiced by Jenny Slate (Kroll Show). The film was written by Ken Daurio (Despicable Me), Cinco Paul (Despicable Me 2), and Brian Lynch (Minions), and it was directed by Chris Renaud (Despicable Me and The Lorax).

But was it any good? Read on to see for yourselves! 

 

First off, the animation was phenomenal. The characters were clean and cartoonish, and perfectly fit the tone of the film. The backgrounds were amazing and layered full of sight gags or just great art. What really struck me though was how amazing the water effects were in the animation. If you are a fan of animation, I think you should go watch this movie just for the water. I know this sounds weird, but for some reason it really struck me how photorealistic they were able to create water effects.

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(image courtesy of Illumination Entertainment)

Secondly, the voice acting was incredibly well done. It’s probably a testament to the story and animation, but I didn’t find myself trying to pick out all of the voices for each character in the movie as I tend to often do in these types of animated features that work with more household celebrities over the traditional (and highly talented) voice actors. Certain actors like Louis C.K. or Kevin Hart are extremely obvious if you’re a big fan, but that doesn’t get in the way of the enjoyment of the film.

Next, the plot of the film is fine. It is nothing too dramatically original. They find their originality in the characters they develop, but in many ways it isn’t too different from films like Homeward Bound or The Adventures of Milo and Otis. It is a more modern take on the story, and being that it is animated the animals are in much higher levels of danger. But it isn’t anything too new. That isn’t meant as too harsh of a criticism since to most of the children that go to see this film will probably have this be an original experience for them, and if you’re the parent those may be found films from your childhood.

The humor in the film is really well done. While many of these animated films for families today often make slight double entendres for the adults in the audience, this film goes in a slightly different direction, and one that I actually enjoyed more. It finds its adult humor in darker places, often making jokes about death or injury. I don’t want it to sound like this is a black comedy, it is in fact far from it, but it doesn’t pull its punches on the fact that animals get old, sick, and die. It isn’t cavalier in its humor on that front, but it does allow a bit of sarcasm in places to soften the blow. Basically, if you’re scared of letting your child know that death exists, then this movie probably isn’t for you and your family. But the adult humor is a small part of this film, since it is a movie predominately for kids. Most of the humor is slapstick in nature in the grand tradition of Looney Toons.

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(image courtesy of Illumination Entertainment)

One last note, in the screening I was in there were a lot of families. One thing that I thought was interesting is that there were definitely moments were the kids were laughing harder than the adults, and vice versa. Overall, the audience seemed to really enjoy this movie, and the pacing and constant action seemed to grip even the most ADD children who prior to the lights going down reinforced my wife and mine’s decision to not have kids.

The Bottom Line:
This is definitely a great family-friendly children’s film that I think both kids and adults will enjoy. If you’re the kind of adult who enjoys the movies like Despicable Me, then I think this will be another one you will enjoy. Really thinking about the movie a day later (and keeping in mind that this is a kids movie!) I can’t find much at fault with the film, and obviously the enjoyment of the rest of the theater during the viewing only reinforces that. – 8.0/10

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-Kevin McVicker
Staff Writer: Nerd Nation Magazine

 

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