From the trailers to the posters, most of us wanted to see Illumination Studios next film that was The Secret Life Of Pets. With a stellar voice cast that includes some of the top comedians in the game led by Louis C.K. as tiny dog named Max, Kevin Hart as a bunny, Lake Bell, Eric Stonestreet, and even Hannibal Burress. While the cast did their parts well, this is not the caliber of animated movie we should have been given with such a promising premise.
I can’t say this was a premise that was wasted, that title goes to the Purge series if you ask me, but the story about the adventures and shenanigans our pets get into when we’re away didn’t become that extra brilliant narrative like most adults had hoped for. What we got was a mixed bag of emotions and an adventure with talking animals we’ve seen before. The only difference with this film and others was the poorly fitting dark humor that seems to swarm the audience within every act of the film. It’s not exactly A Clockwork Orange for kids, but it’s strangely aggressive in some moments that fall short of laughter. Thankfully, great voice acting and scenarios make for some good laughs, but don’t expect to “ooh” and “awe” like you did in Finding Dory.
It’s a predictable plot with characters that feel like could have been added to an adult cartoon movie. It’s not as much a sensitive children’s film as it is a limit pushing animated film. What I wanted from the film was a bunch of pets roaming through their homes getting into ridiculous antics, but we get a Homeward Bound meets Ninja Turtles type story that doesn’t bring much new to the table. The animation style is fine, but nothing exactly stands out as anything electrifying or impressive, and I just don’t think this was made for kids like we are brainwashed to believe. With that said, I laughed at quite a few moments that the rest of the audience may have been mute for – cautious parents and confused children – and that’s bound to happen, but it proves that the audience they wanted to hit may not have been the miniature versions of us.
Overall, the film has is funny bits – which are sort of spoiled in the trailers – and what you want may not be there as often as you’d like, but your kids are going to probably enjoy it because there’s talking animals and vibrant colors. The adults are better off seeing it at a random time to really appreciate the film’s adult humor and strange choice of dialogues and imagery (you’ll see what I mean later). It’s a middle of the road animated “kids” film from the studio that gave us two really good films in Despicable Me 1+2, but those are still the standouts from Illumination’s catalog to date.
P.s. I am convinced I will like the film a little more if I see it again, but who knows.