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Film Review

A fresh look at the same old thing

7/13/2016

Ultimately, the gauge by which every parent measures a kids’ movie comes down to this question: “Will this keep my children entertained for most of its run-time?” It is a fairly simple guideline to use, and, for “The Secret Life of Pets,” the answer to that question is “yes.” Perhaps even better for parents, there is no catchy song or snappy catch phrase that will worm its way into your child’s head and thus dominate your life the next six months.Secret Life of Pets

“The Secret Life of Pets” is fine. It’s a good-looking, well-animated, well-voiced film from the folks who brought you the “Despicable Me” films and the “Minions” spin off. The story is well told, the cast takes to its roles well, and there are enough laughs in the right spots to keep younger and older viewers alike mostly entertained. Outside of that, thanks in large part to a fairly predictable story line, there is nothing particularly memorable about the film, and it is very unlikely to become your kid’s next favorite movie of all time.

The story centers around Max (Louis C.K.), a well-loved (some would say spoiled) terrier, living with his owner, Katie, in their New York apartment. His life is idyllic until Katie brings home a large mutt named Duke (Eric Stonestreet) from the pound. Duke proceeds to take over the apartment and ruin the shared life that Max and Katie had together, so Duke develops a plan to get him sent back to the pound he came from. Duke, meanwhile, looks to get rid of Max before that can happen. The resulting struggle winds up getting both dogs lost in the city and picked up by Animal Control.

From there, the story splits into two points of view, following Max and Duke as they are rescued from captivity by a mob of sewer-dwelling animals led by a bunny named Snowball (Kevin Hart) and a group of Max’s apartment-living friends, led by the love-struck Gidget (Jenny Slate), a rodent-loving falcon (Albert Brooks) and a half-paralyzed, ancient basset hound (Dana Carvey) as they strike out to find the missing dogs and bring them home safely.

Looking at the cast list, it is apparent that the phrase “star-studded” does not exactly apply, with comedians C.K. and Hart being the biggest names on the roster. But every actor involved is experienced and capable, and virtually all have previous comedic experience to draw from. The result is characters that are relatable and easy to like and enjoy. The film is bright and colorful, and at no point does “The Secret Life of Pets” get too sad or scary, though there is one scene with a large sewer snake that might give the littler ones in your brood a tense moment.

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Ultimately, you are going to take your kids to this film because it is animated, and the trailer was funny, and they are going to have a good time. There are a few moments in the second act where things bog down a bit, but they recover quickly, and the movie never feels overly long. There are plenty of funny moments to keep kids happy, and while there aren’t really very many jokes aimed directly at adults, the humor will land with you as well. But outside of accomplishing those very basic requirements, there is nothing about “The Secret Life of Pets” that will keep you coming back to the well. It is a run-of-the-mill story that will do little outside of provide an entertaining family afternoon. CV

 

“The Secret Life of Pets”

Rated PG

90 minutes

Starring Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart

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