While “The Secret Life of Pets” did not quite meet my expectations, this is a great movie for families and people of all ages.
The characters were beyond adorable. The perky white Pomeranian named Gidget (Jenny Slate), the overweight and apathetic tabby cat Chloe (Lake Bell), the clever and gang-leading bunny Snowball (Kevin Hart), and hurricane found in the mammoth Newfoundland named Duke (Eric Stonestreet) were amusing companions to the main character, a Jack Russell terrier named Max (Louis C.K.).
The extent of Gidget’s crush on Max is amazing and colorful as well as provides surprising twists of just how feisty and fierce she can get when Max is on the line. Gidget also proves herself to be a loyal and trusting friend with both Max and Tiberius (Albert Brooks), a red-tailed hawk who tries to eat Gidget the first time Gidget meets him. Gidget forgives him, though.
Audiences can also look forward to a guinea pig who is constantly lost, a pug who creates a new hobby of “Rage Against the Squirrels” with much barking and jumping as though the squirrels are his personal assassins, and an elderly basset hound who expresses quite a bit of interest in Chloe as well as has a surprising amount of knowledge of how to get around New York City even though his wrinkles cover his eyes.
There is also a dachshund and a pet parakeet — who are not super-important to the story — along with a snake, a pig covered in tattoos, and alligator — the last three definitely being on the creepy side of this movie.
Still, the movie lacks the overwhelming cuteness that the creators had when they created “Minions.” The story was also not as engaging as I hoped it would be. The movie relied more on individual quirks and funny moments of mixing human and animal traits, like the dogs’ love of balls and hatred of squirrels.
There is a lot of interaction between the domesticated animals and strays, like stray cats with frightening sharp claws and the “Flushed Pets” — who are mostly reptiles living in the sewers and are, again, creepy.
The majority of the story revolves around Max and Duke, as Max’s owner Katie (Ellie Kemper) has just adopted Duke and Max is not happy about it. They each continue to try and sabotage one another as Max does not want this giant, shaggy dog to interrupt his cushy life with Katie and Duke does not want to go back to the pound, where he might get put down.
There are some heavier themes found in “The Secret Life of Pets,” many revolving around the questions:
• Why are there so many abandoned animals and pets?
• Why is that pig covered in tattoos?
• How did Duke end up in the pound the first time?
• Why didn’t his owner come for him?
• Why is Animal Control so evil?
• Why is that bunny so mean?
• Why are these two dogs trapped in a cage in a car that is about to explode?
• Why are these two dogs trapped in a vehicle that is slowly sinking into this river and filling up with water?
• Is ANYBODY going to save these two dogs because I THOUGHT I was about to see a happy movie?
While “The Secret Life of Pets” was a good movie overall, with the best parts including the splashes of Gidget throughout the movie, I accidentally let my hopes get too high before seeing the movie. It clearly has a lot of heart, though, with how much the owners — even though the owners are basically useless in this cute animated movie and the humans just get in the way in general — and the animals care about each other. I give this movie a B+.
Reach Sam Wildow at (937) 451-3336 or [email protected]