It's like Toy Story... but with pets
The Secret Life of Pets (2016): A terrier named Max's quiet life is upended when his owner takes in Duke, a stray whom Max instantly dislikes.
Man is Illumination Entertainment trying to make themselves another Pixar or what? I'm not gonna lie I had pretty high expectations for this film. After all the previews were HILARIOUS and it's pets! How could you not love them, right? Well, after the opening of the film which showcased pretty much everything you see in the trailers, the story kicked in. And you could tell Illumination Entertainment was trying so hard to create a story worthy of Pixar levels of memorability, but sadly they fell out of the Pixar tree and hit the ground with a thud.
So, first off, let's talk about what this film does right. The animation was excellent. As I said in Finding Dory, I do not feel I have the expertise to actually critique the animation, but I can tell that Illumination has a very distinct animating style (like Pixar) which was fun to watch. And that city shot of New York City was GORGEOUS. Whoever made that deserves an award just for that shot. (Which they used several times, fortunately) Also the movie definitely has some great jokes for the kids and great jokes for the adults too. Illumination definitely tried to keep the parents entertained here, which is a traditional fault of most animated films. Finally, I had no qualms with the voice acting, though it definitely was not as good as Pixar's 2016 film Finding Dory.
But here's my problem. Well, one of them: the pacing. This film comes in at a short 90 minutes, (as it should) but my problem with pacing here was the film never really gave you a chance to breath. To appreciate what was going on.There were hardly any scenes with just two characters talking to each other and thus giving these characters a chance to develop. Now that's not to say that no character development took place it's just some of it wasn't really earned. My other problem with this film lies in its ties to Toy Story. As in.....this story is Toy Story. Like.....exactly Toy Story. Now this isn't a huge fault since Toy Story is a great film to be compared to but when it comes from a completely different studio? I don't know. I mean after the success of the unique Despicable Me, Dreamworks has pushed hard to make Illumination Entertainment to them as Pixar is to Disney. So to see Pixar's biggest competitor basically produce Toy Story but with pets....it kind of rubbed me the wrong way.
That said, this film is still an above average film, and definitely one worth seeing if you have a family. But fans of movies like myself I think are going to be a little disappointed. Especially since the trailers made it look fantastic. (That dog jamming out to heavy metal was definitely worth the cost of admission!) Ultimately this film leaves a lot to be desired, and with several promising animated films coming up later this year I'm honestly not even sure if this will receive an Oscar nomination. Check it out! Just....temper your expectations. A lot.
The Critique: Despite some major pacing problems and its striking similarity to a Pixar classic, The Secret Life of Pets is still a decent movie-watching experience.
The Recommendation: Definitely fun for the whole family on a hot summer's day, but everyone else? Just Netflix it. There. I said it.
Rewatchability: Moderately Low
The Verdict: 6/10 Above Average
Also I have to point out Illumination Entertainment's clever tribute to itself featuring a super brief cameo from Pharrell's "Happy." Well played, guys.
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