The Secret Life of Pets – 3.5/5 – Movie Reviews by Ry!

The Secret Life of PetsThe Secret Life of Pets – 3.5/5 – There isn’t much more I can say about animated features that I haven’t said before in previous reviews.  The only thing I will say this time around is that any animated film stands out when they appeal across generations.  No matter if you’re an adult or a child, the experience can be built upon the same thread.  The Secret Life of Pets provides an odd styling of characterization through an honest approach.  The whimsical journey provides that escapism of wealth and wonder.  Even when it mimics unoriginal story elements, The Secret of Life of Pets gives enough for a thrilling ride.

Premise: Max’s quiet life is forever changed when his owner brings another pet home.  With Duke and Max trying to live together, their angst leads to a journey through New York City like no other.

The acting list is extensive, so I will recommend referring to the IMDb page.  The voice acting list is filled with big names and some up and comers.  This adds to the long list of characters that can be long and convoluted.  Even for the long list, this film does a great job in providing worth to each character that comes on screen (animal and human).  From the main two dogs (Max and Duke) to all the side characters, you feel the authenticity of the world.  This realistic approach creates individual distinctions in each of the characters.  From the dogs, cats, birds and plethora of animals throughout New York City, you feel the personification in each of them.  No matter if its Max and Duke trying to live together, the animal gang living in the sewers or the group of pets within the same apartment building, it all feels real.  The greatness comes in the rawness of the banter; creating witty dialogue, funny one-liners and dramatic/emotional moments.  Even if there are a few one-dimensional characters, no one drags the film down.  This allows for ominous and unexpected situations throughout the whole experience.

The direction dances a fine line of original concepts within unoriginal plot elements.  This can seem cumbersome; but the ideal situation sometimes comes out from the commonality of a standard story.  This helps (somewhat) for the direction to put some focus on the concept of what it is like being a Pet.  Within the first act, we get standard introductions to the main pets, which includes Max.  We come to learn (from the animal’s perspective), how it is like living as a Pet in New York City.  The attachment of ‘pet to owner’ helps create that introductory hook that stays strong through the rest of the film.  This is a good thing because the direction takes a turn that trails into predictable tropes once the new pet (Duke), comes into the picture.  This leads to a ‘budding head’ scenario with some comical, but expected results.  Even as the film provides a whimsical approach through the ‘duel’ dialogue between the humans and their pets, the commonality of the plot devices heeds the flow of direction.  Seeing predictability mixing with the original concepts fragments a deeper connective tissue that could have been created.  Even if the experience simmers, the standard elements are held at bay by the overall use of colorful characters, charming dialogue and intriguing interactions between all the animals.  The joyfulness comes out by the growth of the characters, especially between Max and Duke.  As the clichés and obvious tropes move the story along in a ‘point A to point B’ method, it is the ‘unexpected change’ that drives tension.  This leads to Max and Duke getting lost In New York City.  This switches the theme to the ‘journey’ aspect, forcing the two dogs to find a way back home.  This plot device is used a lot in other animated films; sometimes at the fault of the direction.  This repetitive device becomes the connective thread for the characters.  As the second act captures this ‘journey’, we watch Max and Duke come across some funny situations, dire circumstances and the dubious ‘self-reflection’ moments that help bring them full circle.  Once we get to the final act, it is infused with a ‘wrap-up’ style directive that brings all the animals together. The climax is an ‘over-the-top’ commotion that brings some stylized mantra to the journey, leading to the typical ‘going home’ epilogue.  This helps wind down the common approach, allowing for an ending that focuses on the greatness of the characters.

The visuals are very grand.  The vibrancy comes from the luscious colors used to bring ‘life’ to this animated version of New York City.  From the sprawling skyline, the panorama views of the parks/streets and the unique draw of each apartment, it all adds differentially the film.  The visuals also add uniqueness to the character designs.  Each of the animals are distinct to their personalities.  This helps add layers to the individual aspects, flushing out that authentic appeal for the animals.  The score are common sounds you find in any animated film.  With loud surrounding instrumentals to quaint acoustic stylizing moments; it’s all used to amplify some attractiveness to the story.

The Secret Life of Pets flourishes at the expense of story.  Even when the characters, dialogue and concepts stand out; the driving force is held together through a predictable plot and common tropes.  Even for all that, I do recommend this for fans of animated films or any pet lover.  This is a wonderful time at the theaters that you and your family will enjoy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *