Max (Louis CK.) is a domesticated mutt that is all too eager to please its owner.
The Secret Life of Pets, like Max its amiable protagonist, is also all too eager to please its viewers. While that’s fine, that singular aim to simply please is also the reason it can never go beyond being just another candy-colored distraction for kids and their parents.
Fun and furry
Don’t get me wrong. The animated movie, directed by Chris Renaud and Yarrow Cheney, is a lot of fun, if you are into incessant barrages of witty jokes, frenetic chases, and cuteness. There is a lot going for it. Its cast of characters include a wide array of furry and scaly animals who seem to have imbibed the charming quirks of New York City’s residents.
There’s Gidget (Jenny Slate), a big ball of fluff, who spends her afternoons imbibing life and love lessons from soap operas. There’s Tiberius (Albert Brooks), a lonesome hawk who needs to repress his murderous instincts for the promise of earning a friend. There’s a pampered cat (Lake Bell) who can’t seem to control her diet. There’s Snowball (Kevin Hart), an irresistible white bunny who secretly heads a gang of anarchist former pets deep within the sewers of the metropolis.
The conceit’s precious, and the movie mines it for as much comedy as it can. Its humor mostly centers on an exaggeration of the old adage “Don’t judge the book by its cover,” pushing gag after gag of psychotic tendencies out of the mundane and the adorable. The secret life in the movie’s title is all about laughs and giggles, and sadly, very little more.
The story’s essentially about Max and his new roomie Duke (Eric Stonestreet), an abandoned dog that Max’s owner rescued from the pound. After some spats, they get lost in the city, prodding Gidget, who thinks of herself as Max’s soulmate, to rescue them, all in the name of love. What ensues is an eccentric adventure that bares some very neat surprises along the way.
Unfortunately, The Secret Life of Pets seems to be all about its wild antics. The movie avoids touching on bleaker and more meaningful emotions, maintaining a very sunny, fanciful atmosphere all throughout. The whole thing ends up feeling like a staggered joke rather than an imaginative exploration of what pets actually feel and do when their beloved owners are not around.
Even when it proposes the possibility of melancholy, such as when the fate of Duke’s previous owner was revealed, it quickly pulls away by introducing more stunts and gimmicks. It seems that the movie doesn’t want to step into a direction where it can be mistaken for anything else other than a trite cartoon. It’s a waste, because the opportunities for it are there for the taking.
Jokes, colors and noise
As mentioned, the movie’s sure to please, precisely because it’s movie that has been designed not to challenge conventions.
However, in a very crowded market where children’s entertainment is designed not only to become distractions for kids but also avenues for creative or social discourse for adults (as in the case of Disney’s Zootopia, which offers talking animals interacting in the big city) a movie like The Secret Life of Pets stunts itself by relying too much on jokes, colors, and noise. – Rappler.com
Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas’ ‘Tirad Pass.’ Since then, he’s been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema.