The Secret Life of Pets is a 2016 computer-animated comedy film produced by Illumination Entertainment, the creators of the Despicable Me films and Minions. Secret Life features voice work from Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart, Lake Bell, Jenny Slate, and Dana Carvey.
The story behind Secret Life revolves around a Jack Russell terrier dog named Max, who lives a jubilant lifestyle with his owner, Katie. One day, Katie brings home a new dog; a big, brown Newfoundland named Duke. Max and Duke are unable to get along, and eventually, the two find themselves lost in the streets of New York. The two begin to search for a way home, running into a white rabbit named Snowball, who leads a cult of abandoned animals. At the same time, Gidget, a white pomeranian who has a crush on Max, learns that he is missing and heads out to recruit help and find him.
Pet lovers who saw the trailer(s) certainly have high hopes when going to see this film. Secret Life is able to meet those hopes for the most part.
- The humor based on the quirky nature of pets. Any dog, cat, bird, and even gerbil owner will undoubtedly find something to point out and laugh at in the film. Max and Duke giving puppy dog eyes in hopes of getting food, dogs going in a circle sniffing each other's rear ends, or a cat making headlines as a hot new Youtube video are all bound to draw laughs from pet lovers, and might even draw some chuckles from viewers who know little to nothing about the joy of pet-caring.
- Jenny Slate as Gidget. Slate did notable voice work just a few months earlier as Assistant Mayor Bellweather in Disney's highly successful Zootopia. Slate's voice acting perfectly matches the personality of Gidget; cute and cuddly, but never whiny and overbearing. She also brings a strong sense of aggression to the role, knowing how to act tough and fearless when Gidget fights and knocks down other animals.
- Kevin Hart as Snowball, the rabbit. It is my personal opinion to say that, if comedy was a game of baseball, Kevin Hart almost never gets a big hit or home run. I cannot recall one instance where I saw Snowball on screen and legitimately laughed at something he did. Kevin Hart as Snowball suffers from arguably the biggest issue when it comes to voice acting; the inability to distinguish the actor from the character. When I saw Snowball the rabbit, I didn't see an animated, psychotic little bunny, I saw Kevin Hart, and I saw him doing the same routine he has been doing for too long now; acting as boisterous as possible, instead to only come off as annoying and painfully unfunny.
- The somewhat bias towards dogs. If we throw out all non-cat and non-dog animals in the film, as well as very minor dog or cat characters, the ratio of dog to cat is 5 to 1. For dog lovers like myself, this wasn't a big deal, but clearly, the balance of pets in Secret Life heavily favors dogs, which leaves not a lot of room for humor dedicated to cats or other non-dog animals. Dog-haters, beware.
Secret Life of Pets mirrors the nature of a typical pet: Funny and enjoyable, but at times, bothersome and non-sensical.
There is definitely room for improvement in some areas in Secret Life, but there's more than enough humor, charm, and wit to make up for its flaws and establish it as a fun, summer movie that the whole family can enjoy.
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