If you’ve ever really wanted to know what your pets think when you leave for work, it’s nothing good, according to The Secret Life of Pets, by the creators of Minions. Max (Louis C.K.) is a big city terrier who’s head over heels in love with his owner Katie (Ellie Kemper). Then she adopts a very sloppy and careless shaggy stray named Duke (Eric Stonestreet). Pitted in a rivalry for top dog in Katie’s apartment, Max and Duke end up on a crazy adventure that takes them through the sewers, across the river to Brooklyn, into a sausage factory and back again.
“This movie is one big missed opportunity. They rely on the same overused plot of reluctant friends having to band together to get home after they accidentally get lost. It’s an animated Homeward Bound without the heart. It’s lackluster at best and inexplicably jumps from one scene to the next with no transitions.” —Jeff
“This isn’t exactly the sweet, cute, and utterly kid-friendly movie you might expect; it can be downright menacing at times. Alley cats hiss, bare their claws and attack innocent pups. One of the dogs rounded up by animal control is outfitted with a mask that brings to mind Hannibal Lecter. And one character is killed off with a casual shrug of the plot.” —Drew
“The characters lack any sort of depth. They are just characters doing things to get to the next joke. The dialogue is delivered with no energy, which makes the characters come across as lifeless puppets. The humor and situations don’t feel age-appropriate for a younger audience, as the moments meant for adults are not quite subtle enough. Overall, the whole thing is poorly executed.” —Jeff
“The movie’s pets aren’t given a ton of personality through their animation, which hurts the movie a ton. Max is a kid-friendly clone of the character Louis plays in his FX series. He’s well-intentioned but aloof and passive-aggressive about conflict. Kevin Hart voices Snowball, the bonkers bunny leader of a gang of sewer animals who’ve been abandoned by their owners. Hart’s voice acting is over the top and doesn’t come down even during emotional moments when you would want it to. Albert Brooks voices the hawk Tiberius, a much more menacing creature than Marlin, another animated character he plays in this year’s Finding Dory.” —Drew
“I think the movie does shine with its animation. It’s clear that quite a bit of time and attention was paid to making the world of the pets and the creatures that inhabit it. The locations were well planned and crafted. The animals all have distinct looks that are very pleasing to the eye. And any time a lot of hair flows realistically in animation, they have done something right. But pretty pictures can’t redeem this movie for me. It seems as though they tried to be different than Pixar, but couldn’t manage to pull it off.” —Jeff
“It doesn’t pull at any of your heart strings like a Pixar movie, but it’s playful and endearing. The soundtrack is fun, especially for the adults. It’s just a so-so family-friendly flick you might watch once.” —Drew
Overall, The Secret Life of Pets is a bit unbalanced, though kids and their parents can enjoy this summer flick. There are some entertaining moments, and the story is simple. It just lacks any power to be a great movie.
Stars: Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart, Steve Coogan, Ellie Kemper, Bobby Moynihan, Lake Bell, Dana Carvey, Hannibal Buress, Jenny Slate, Albert Brooks, Tara Strong, Chris Renaud, Laraine Newman, John Kassir, Michael Beattie
Score: 2 of 5