'The Secret Life of Pets' tells a far too familiar tale
The Secret Life of Pets
2.5 out of 5 Stars
Directors: Yarrow Cheney, Chris Renaud
Writers: Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio, Brian Lynch
Starring: Louis C.K., Kevin Heart, Jenny Slate, Ellie Kemper
Genre: Animation, Comedy, Family
Rated: PG for action and some rude humor
Recommended to: Fans of recycled storylines dressed up in pretty animation
Synopsis: Max, a beloved terrier, finds his life turned upside down when his owner brings home Duke, a rather large and shaggy dog.
Review: I'd wager that most, if not all, pet owners have imagined the "secret life" that their furry or feathered friends live while no human is watching. As such you'd think that writers Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio and Brian Lynch would have plenty of material to work with. Sadly, beyond a few scenes at the beginning of the film, the majority of "The Secret Life of Pets" is a caper of sorts that pales when compared to this year's "Zootopia" and "Toy Story," which shares many similar plot points. Frankly, I expected more from Paul and Daurio, who were responsible for the "Despicable Me" films. It's not just that they recycled elements from other stories; it's that they did it so poorly. The majority of the remotely funny material is featured in the trailers. The head-banging poodle bit gets used multiple times with diminishing results, Kevin Hart grabs the spotlight in every scene his bunny appears despite the fact that his character is essentially one-trick bunny with ex-owner issues and none of the characters are given the sort of care or attention that would make us feel anything for them. It's so superficial, uninvolving and lacking in emotion that the moment you leave the theater there's no desire to return to it.
Is it cute? I suppose so, but the fact that the animated water looks amazing doesn't cover up the fact that its narrative is generic. That might be enough for kids (although there seemed to be a lot of restlessness among the younger members of the audience at my screening), but it won't work for anyone who wants to engage with the film they are watching.
"The Secret Life of Pets" is a disappointment. It's not nearly as bad as "Norm of the North" or "Nut Job," but it pales when compared to "The BFG," "Zootopia," or "Finding Dory."