The trailers for The Secret Life of Pets have been playing for about a year, showcasing the many humourous ways in which pets are using our human facilities in sketches and gags that match the comic instincts demonstrated by Illumination’s previous Minion-based-shenanigans so far. Cool. Pets having adventures beyond humans. ‘That’s cool by me, where are you going with this?’ I asked, and then, unlike Toy Story, the film didn’t really raise any more interesting or answer any more interesting questions.
However, confidence was shaken straight away, as the opening short film was one of the minion-DVD-extra type sketches full of buffoonery. This overblown five-minute sketch got much more laughter than Pets itself garnered.
The problem with Pets is its title. The Secret Life of Pets doesn’t imply much story beyond the gags we’re familiar with in the trailers, and that is sadly what we get.
Max is a dog, loves his owner Katie, and then gets jealous when she adopts another dog into the fold, and through their own conflict, wind up collarless and lost in New York, with the pound and gangs of owner-less animals on their tails (no pun intended).
This sounds all quite negative so far, and the truth is, it shouldn’t be. There is a lot of fun to be had with Pets. This is the film that has finally made me like Kevin Hart, brimming to the seems with strong jokes and sequences that feel like Louis C.K and Eric Stonestreet were improvising and the animators caught up to and facilitated their jokes rather than the other way around. and the film is an absolute treat to look it. It doesn’t have the issues that The Good Dinosaur had in terms of the plot being so thin that the interesting backgrounds took centre stage, but there’s something else wrong here.
It is a boring success. A safe bet. Nothing in there is particularly different or memorable when compared to the works of Pixar or even Dreamworks. A lot of the secondary characters don’t achieve any real impact and the plot is very by the numbers. Nothing surprises you. I would argue that there is not a single plot twist in the film, which is a real shame as a lot of seriously fantastic potential is wasted, particularly in the third act.
The Secret Life of Pets has nothing to hide, and will entertain you with brash and colourful scapes of adventures, and then be left on the shelf. Near the end of the film, one of the dogs goes to another dog’s party wearing a minion costume. Illumination’s brand seems to be thinly gag-based and whilst it didn’t make me wish they had made Despicable Me 3 faster, it made me wish they had done something with as much heart as the rest of their work.