Illumination’s “Secret Life Of Pets” Is Just Another Notch On Their Belt

By Scott Kurland

Film: The Secret Life of Pets
Starring: Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, Jenny Slate, Kevin Hart, Dana Carvey, Ellie Kemper, Albert Brooks, Lake Bell, and Hannibal Buress
Rated PG
Director: Yarrow Cheney and Chris Renaud

I like Illumination studios, I really do. They’re like the new Dreamworks Animation. Dreamworks has become Pixar, and Pixar is now a GOD. Illumination makes cute films like “Depicable Me”, “The Lorax”, and “Minions.” It's unfortunate that all of these movies tell the same story: don’t judge a book by its cover. That’s it, that’s the message of all their films. What made me realize that was this week’s film “The Secret Life of Pets”. Let’s find out if its any good shall we?

“The Secret Life Of Pets” is about Max (Louis C.K.), a Jack Russell Terrier who has the perfect life. His owner Katie (Ellie Kemper) loves him, and he loves her. Max is so blinded by his love for Katie he misses the affection of the dog next store Gidget (the always adorable Jenny Slate). Max’s world is turned upside down when Katie brings home a new dog named Duke (Eric Stonestreet) and a turf war ensues. They become strays in the process, only to be saved by a sadistic bunny named Snowball (Kevin Hart). Now Gidget, must find her four-legged-love with the help of an unlikely crew. Can they get Max and Duke back before Katie comes home? Or will they fail?

Ok, I’ll be frank, (you can still be whoever you are,*Drumshot*). Anyway, as I was saying. I didn’t hate this movie, but did I love it either. I tolerated it and appreciated it for the kids film it is. This doesn’t have more for the parents like Pixar or Disney. Nor does it have the sense of urgency and peril as, say, a Warner Bros. or Dreamworks animated film. It’s just cute. Max is cute, Duke is fluffy, and Gidget is a ball of adorable energy. See? Cute. Not great or amazing, it’s cute. The voice acting from C.K. and Slate is pretty great, and Dana Carvey does reprise his "old codger" SNL character which was fun. 

  That said, Kevin Hart and his story line seemed out-of-place. I feel like Illumination needs to take a play from Pixar. You don’t always need a bad guy. If Duke and Max had to struggle to get home without being chased by the dog catchers or the forgotten flushed pets, I would have liked this more. This film has too many plots. There's Duke and Max, Gidget and her crew, the Forgotten Pets, and the dog catchers. All this film really needed were the first two: Duke and Max, Gidget and the search party.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s worse children’s films out there like “Home”, and, well, we all know where I stand on “The Good Dinosaur”…grrr. “The Secret Life of Pets” is fine. It's not my first choice, but if I’m a parent and I already saw “Finding Dory,” I need another option; this film. I found myself chuckling at times and I did enjoy seeing Dana Carvey or, I should say, hearing Dana Carvey. With that said, I already saw this “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover,” story line four times before with Illumination. They need to find a new theme.  I don’t know what that theme would be, but Pixar had a theme as random as "anyone can cook," so I'm sure they can come up with something. 

“The Secret Life Of Pets” is harmless family entertainment. There’s not much for the parents, except comedians from the 90's voicing animals. This is mainly aimed at children, and the message, although recycled, is good for children to learn. Especially young children ages 4-8. Older kids will leave the theater with a new-found respect for their pets, and parents will raid the house looking for signs that their pets stole their food while they were gone. I can slightly recommend “The Secret Life Of Pets,” because I’m not the key demographic. This is a kids movie and it does serve its purpose.

scott kurlandComment