Monday, July 11, 2016

Looking at Movies (First Run) - The Secret Life of Pets (2016)

I cannot even begin to tell you how much my wife and I were looking forward to seeing The Secret Life of Pets. We were still bouncing off the walls from Inside Out, and the Minion movie was starting to grow on us. When you have three and one year old children in the house, the minions get a lot of play. We are fans of the Despicable Me movies, so we figured that a fresh story from the same people who made Despicable Me would be awesome. Well, we were wrong.

I sometimes read other reviews of movies before I write my own just to see what other people think, and one quote stood out to me. One reviewer said that it looks like Illumination is more interested in marketing merchandise than telling a good story. While the story in the Minions movie was not terrible, it was at least creative. The story in The Secret Life of Pets was neither creative nor interesting. There were some funny moments and my three year old grandson loved the movie, but the wife and I were completely disappointed.

I can get past the fact that Illumination is treating Albert Brooks like some sort of voice-over icon by giving him key roles in all of their feature films, but it ain't easy. In this movie, Albert Brooks did his best impression of Mel Brooks, so at least that part was not so annoying. But this movie had no real plot to get interested in. The story just kind of happened, and then it was over. There were so many cliches in this movie that it just got too predictable. The furry bunny who went all hood because he was abandoned, an army of pets that were flushed down the toilet, and the loyal but clueless house pets were all played out years ago.

Despicable Me and the Minions movie were clever and different. With Despicable Me, we were introduced to an entirely new world that we had never seen before. Last year, Inside Out (which Illumination had nothing to do with) showed that animated films could be fascinating, funny, and full of substance. For some reason, I expected The Secret Life of Pets to follow suit. I expected something clever, funny, and entertaining. The movie falls way short of any of that.

The characters in this movie are cliche, the comedy has been done before, and there are no plot twists that we do not see coming a mile away. While the animation is excellent and there are a couple of laugh out loud moments, the movie kind of plods along acting more like a commercial for minions merchandise than a movie that can stand on its own. The minions appear in a short at the beginning of this movie, and then the minions appear again at the end. In between, we get jokes that probably would have been funnier if the minions had been doing them.

For reasons I don't quite understand, this movie is rating well with critics and movie goers. Maybe I am so jaded that I don't get it with animated movies anymore. But then I remember how much I glowed about Inside Out and the Minions movie and I remember that I still do love a good cartoon. This might be a movie worth seeing if you have kids, but you will want to not waste your time with The Secret Life of Pets if you are an adult who was lured back into the animated features world by the quality releases of 2015.

Rating: 2 out of 5

George N Root III is a movie fanatic who loves cartoons. You can follow him on Twitter @georgenroot3, or you can send him a message at