At the movies with nate adams
Copyright © 2018
"The Secret Life Of Pets"
Illumination Entertainment, the folks who delivered those brainwashing, headache inducing Minions are at it again. This time substituting yellow skin and blue goggles for a more subtle, easily reliable, premise in “The Secret Life Of Pets.” A harmless, if unnecessary, animated flick that will gain maximum giggles from the little ones, and adds an extra layer or two for the adults as well.
Sure, it’s a thought we all have pondered at some point in our lives, “what do our pets do when we aren’t around.” A mystery that, Director Chris Renaud and Writers; Ken Daurio, Brian Lynch and Cinco Paul answer. Even if they borrow many elements from other, better made, films of the such like, “Toy Story.”
Not to say that humans don’t already have a tendency to anthropomorphize their animals, because we are all guilty of that. But here, tapping into that wish of how we all want to know what goes on inside our animals heads elevates to the extreme. These adorable critters are given the ability to speak, along with a host of other strange, abnormal, behavior that would normally require opposable thumbs and a fair understanding of modern electronics.
While the formula itself is familiar in terms of scale, most of the script feels fresh in perspective. Each pet, mammal or not, is given a strong personality that equates to their ambition. Our main canine comrade this time is Max (voiced to perfection by Louis C.K) who prances around the house on the daily just waiting for his owner to come home. Meanwhile you have the poodle who spends her afternoon head banging to heavy metal, for example, and there’s Chole (Lake Bell) who is about as lazy as you could imagine, usually forgoing her normal afternoon meal for a heaping of whatever is left in the fridge.
Max is the normal terrier type, and it’s easy to forgive the overly cartoonish approach these animators used on the animals. As you can look at Max’s small frantic tiny legs and easily assess that wouldn’t keep up his top heavy upper body, or his new roommate Duke, who, is simply too big to hug. It’s as though the animators wanted to give each animal a broad characteristic, and seemed to buff up their figures with, what looks like, Cheez Wiz. Yet, it’s that new roommate Duke (voiced by “Modern Family’s” own Eric Stonestreet) that causes some friction between Max’s relationship with his owner Katie (Ellie Kemper.) Thus our real story begins, as the two get lost in the midst of the chaotic New York City after a brief clashing of differences. They become captured by animal control, only to be saved by a street smart, scene stealing, bunny named Snowball (Kevin Hart) the leader of a gang called the “flushed pets.”
The flushed pets are an underground syndicate of non-domesticated animals whose owners didn’t want them anymore. Snowball’s backstory is quite comical, as well as the improvisational antics that Hart is very capable of producing. But it’s not just him, the entire voice work in the film is very well utilized and cements “Pets” as the best Illumination has produced in their arsenal. Which is a welcome return, after last summer’s “Minions,” secured a spot on my worst films of the year. It feels like the writers finally took the time, slowed down, and gave us a story worth investing in. The climactic third act is tons of fun to watch, as we see these adorable critters from all walks of life, come together to help our friends Max and Duke. And the jokes usually hit their mark with a precise accuracy that some of today’s best comedies fail to produce.
“The Secret Life Of Pets” is by no means a perfect animated adventure, but a serviceable one that begins to stall out at a short and squeaky 91 minutes, which is just about the time your attention will begin to dwindle. No worries though, the movie is still amusing enough to warrant all that time spent with these lovable, loyal, and irresistibly charming characters. B
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