The Secret Life of Pets Unleashes Cuteness and Comedy
Illumination Studios, the company who has brought us the Despicable Me universe, has a long track record of touting their films far in advance. They send out teaser trailers sometimes up to two years before the films’ release. I remember seeing the first teaser for Despicable Me and I was so intrigued. Their marketing strategy is smart: get people interested and keep feeding them little tidbits. They treat us like pets…hmm. So when the company did the same for The Secret Life of Pets, boy was my mouth watering the entire time. Any chance I get to watch Louis C.K. voice an adorable little puppy, I’ll be there.
The film is at its strongest when there’s a ton of characters on screen
The Secret Life of Pets is an incredibly cute film. It brings us a whole slew of adorable little characters, voiced brilliantly by the entire cast. Each character has their own personality and truly none of them felt like they were teetering on trope territory. Our two leads, voiced by Louis C.K. and Eric Stonestreet, are pretty memorable. They aren’t the most unique of characters, but for an animated film I definitely think they show a strong definition in their personalities. There’s more to these characters than meets the eye, but when is that not evident in an animated film from one of the big name studios? The Secret Life of Pets is unquestionably a group effort. The film is at its strongest when there’s a ton of characters on screen and when you get a cast with such names as Jenny Slate, Kevin Hart, Ellie Kemper, Hannibal Burress, Albert Brooks, Dana Carvey, and more, you’re bound to get some great comedy and adorable moments from these animals.
Our characters are pretty fantastic, and when the film is all about what our pets do once we leave for work, that’s a very important aspect to have. The journey itself is enjoyable. Our two mains: Duke and Max, are traversing the dangerous landscape of New York City to get back to their beautiful brownstone. There’s some great mishaps, some hilarious moments that are proven even funnier when dogs are the ones put into them but it’s Kevin Hart who takes the cake with his turn as the ferocious fluffy white bunny, Snowball, who leads the pet rebellion against the humans. In my review on Central Intelligence, I praised Kevin Hart for his comedic styling, his drive and determination, and his dedication to the craft. Every time I see Hart in a film, or hear his voice in this case, he never ceases to amaze me. His comedic timing and delivery are always refreshing and fun. His character was positively the most enjoyable part of the film in a film that’s quite enjoyable on its own.
[Kevin Hart's] character was positively the most enjoyable part of the film in a film that’s quite enjoyable on its own.
The Secret Life of Pets is cute, funny, rambunctious and adorable. I don’t even care if some of those adjectives are synonymous. The film had me laughing. Now, recently I feel a lot of films I’ve gone to see have given me the same response, “they had me laughing and I was able to turn off my brain.” Is this a rut I’ve fallen into and just chosen to accept as a universal truth in film? I don’t know yet but it doesn’t stop the film from being enjoyable. I don’t want to view films as just “enjoyable”. I want there to be an added bonus to seeing a film. I want intrigue and mystery. I want to question what I’m seeing but should I really expect something like that from The Secret Life of Pets? I believe that’s a yes and a no at the same time. Animated films are supposed to be fun and silly but when we have a studio like Laika Entertainment who puts out mind bending films such as Coraline, ParaNorman, The Box Trolls, and the upcoming Kubo and the Two Strings, it only makes sense that we want more from these types of films. Animated studios are raising the bar as to what we expect from these films. Whether it’s Illumination, Laika, or Pixar, they keep pumping out quality material. So does The Secret Life of Pets live up to say, Despicable Me, or Inside Out, or Coraline? I don’t think so but it does hold itself up without any strings or help through the eighty-seven minute run time.
Animated studios are raising the bar as to what we expect from these films.
What The Secret Life of Pets does for Illumination is give us some breathing room from the world of minions (even if there’s a short film for them and some references throughout.) Illumination has turned the Minion characters into walking cash cows but it’s good to see that they can still make quality films without having to rely heavily on those yellow twinkies. The movie followed some plot tropes and left some to be desired but it was still fun and enjoyable…there’s that word again. Do you want to see cute dogs and cats doing funny things while running amuck in New York City? Well if you do, then go check it out. Enjoyable ain’t a bad thing, folks.