Illumination Entertainment continues their success with a clever portrayal of human-pet relationships
The Secret Life of Pets is a story about a pet dog named Max (Louis C. K.) trying to get used to the new addition in the family, a big brown dog named Duke (Eric Stonestreet). The movie is directed by Chris Renaud, the director of the Despicable Me movies and newcomer, Yarrow Cheney.
The portrayal of the so-called “domestic pet culture” is cleverly represented in this animation. The film-makers definitely understand how humans view their pet dogs and how pet dogs behave in the household. The comments that are made during certain actions hit relatively close to home for pet lovers. Viewers that own or have owned a dog or a cat can certainly connect to the movie’s quick punch comedy. The portrayal of the pets are from the human point of view, but the are still some very clever moments from the pet’s perception. The domestic animals will cleverly comment on their owners and their perception are quick-witted. At its brightest, the film comments on human’s relationship with their beloved pets. The jokes that derived from this concept are the ones that usually work best.
As for the cast, everyone is great as pets, more specifically, Louis C. K. and Jenny Slate. They definitely carry the movie even if Slate’s character’s secondary storyline could feel less interesting than the main story. Eric Stonestreet and Lake Bell were also great as Duke and Chloe. On the other hand, Kevin Hart’s performance as the evil bunny was by far the worst. His soft to yelling performance was a hit and miss as sometimes, it could work while other times, it could get annoying. This does carry out to his entire performance and the movie tries to find ways to make him relevant.
This pet-centered animation does often used slapstick humour as a source for laughs and it does almost always hit. Avid slapstick enthusiast and Looney Toon fans will undeniably fall in love with this film as the slapstick is a major part of the comedy. The movie understands violent humour that sometimes cross over to dark humour. The director is never afraid to cross lines and offer some edgier comedy. However, this serves as a nice break from the less-slapticky but still effective humour in Pixar movies.
Speaking of Pixar, The Secret Life of Pets does try to go in the emotional route as most of Pixar’s movies do. Unfortunately, these parts never fully land as they feel too rushed and too sloppily put together. It does bring the movie’s fun fast pace to a screeching halt without the viewer buying what the movie is actually selling. Those scenes feel like a drag and chore that needs to get done. The film feel that it has checked off its list and that it can now return back to its fast-pace slapstick comedy.
The Secret Life of Pets’ clever take on pet culture and its brand of slapstick humour produces another animation movie that’s fun for the whole family. Still, it isn’t perfect as the emotional moments do feel like a chore and Kevin Hart’s performance is a hit or miss. One thing is for certain, the Illumination Entertainment’s post-minion movie paves the way for a lot of great animation movies to come.