No matter what your age, I think we can all agree: animation is by far one of the strongest genres of films today. Aside from being the consistently good, they’re also the most emotional, have some of the best characters, and explore an imagination that is so often forgotten in the “serious” genres of today. That being said, not every film can be Toy Story 3, and in a year with some pretty strong animated movies already released, how does the latest fare?
Secret Life of Pets gives us a window into what we’ve all wondered: what do our pets get up to when we’re out? In the middle of New York, Max’s (Louis CK) life is turned upside down when his owner takes in a stray, Duke (Eric Stonestreet), and when they find themselves lost on the other side of the city they must work together with the help of their friends to get home before their owner does.
In such an innovative time for animation, Secret Life of Pets comes off as lacklustre: it doesn’t add anything to the family genre, instead borrowing from other successes to bank on a formula that’s worked before. It’s not bad, just lazy, with an uninspiring finding-our-way-home plot that we’ve seen at play a million times before, and the by-the-numbers characters don’t exactly add much to this, instead playing on animal stereotypes (cats are lazy! Hamsters are hyperactive!) to bring in cheap laughs. That said, the conventional can occasionally be creative: Secret Life of Pets does have moments of cleverness, of funny one liners, brilliant soundtrack choices and interesting characters that threaten to brighten up what is otherwise a rather ordinary film.
And all this is in spite of a quite talented voice cast, who succeed in giving the Secret Life of Pets the personality it needs. Louis CK gives main character Max the New York edge that makes him stand out, caring but self-serving; he was well complimented by Hannibal Buress and Bobby Moynihan’s sidekicks Buddy and Mel, who were great as extra comic relief, and Jenny Slate’s fluffy and feisty Gidget, who harbours a special love for Max. However, Eric Stonestreet as Max’s new ‘brother’ Duke was less than stellar, which is disappointing coming from one of the bigger players in television comedy, and Kevin Hart’s usual shouting and flailing wasn’t enough to bring his villainous bunny Snowball into any position of interest.
The hardest battle for Secret Life of Pets to win this year was the competition: after Zootopia and Finding Dory entering the Billion Dollar Film Club earlier this year, it had a reason to fight harder, to be a better film. But it didn’t take any chances, instead settling for a standard story and stereotypical humour, which was barely elevated by a mixed bag of a cast. Considering the success of other animal-based animations this year, it just needed to be more. Not bad, just boring.
And now, here’s my top five list of my favourite films and TV shows starring the cast of Secret Life of Pets:
- Modern Family – Eric Stonestreet
- Inside Out – Bobby Moynihan
- Zootopia – Jenny Slate
- Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt – Ellie Kemper
- Parks and Recreation – Jenny Slate
Photos taken from IMDb.com: