By Christian DiMartino
Again, I realize I’m a bit late to the party. But I finally just saw The Secret Life of Pets yesterday, so sue me. This film has been making bank at the box office for the past few weeks, so I thought I would try to figure out why. After seeing it, I’m still trying to figure it out.
The Secret Life of Pets is a funny, colorful, and perfectly casted film. But ya know, I’ll admit that, on many occasions, I couldn’t quite put together what I was watching. There comes a sequence in the latter part of the film in which two dogs enter a hot dog factory, eat a bunch of hot dogs, and then… have this weird acid trip thing in which a bunch of hot dogs are singing and dancing along to “We Go Together” from Grease. Do hot dogs have this effect on dogs? Because I’m fairly confident they don’t have that effect on people. I’m confused. Maybe I’m overthinking it, or maybe they underthunk it.
But anyways, back to that in a sec. Louis C.K. does the voice of Max, who has the best owner (Ellie Kemper) in the world. He’s living the dream, basically, along with his friends, Chloe (Lake Bell), Gidget (Jenny Slate), who has a thing for him, Buddy (Hannibal Buress), and Mel (Bobby Moynihan). All is well… until one day, Max’s owner brings in another dog, Duke (Eric Stonestreet), and he realizes that he’s gonna have to share the love. Oh hell nah!
So, the two try to sabotage each other, and one thing leads to another, and they’re both running through the streets (and sewers) of New York City. Both trying to return to their owners. Along the way they run into a psychotic rabbit named Snowball (Kevin Hart), who runs a rebellion against the human race (he has a viper sidekick, which is part of what rubbed me the wrong way. Actually, this whole storyline rubs me the wrong way). Gidget also becomes worried, and teams up with her friends, and a bird named Tiberius (Albert Brooks, killing it once again with the voice work following Finding Dory) to find him.
There’s laughs to be had here, for sure. The voice work is spot-on, even though you might not remember these characters long after the lights come on. There’s fun to be had as well, except until that climax, which is basically pulled from Finding Dory (seriously, it is). You can predict what’s coming, but you won’t mind being hit by it.
This is a likable film, but an uneven one. One that sort of made me squirm at times. I appreciate the filmmaker’s attempts at making this a film that both children and adults will dig, and I realize that I’m not quite the target audience. But listening to two dogs discuss murder in a kids movie is just weird to me. And watching a rabbit jump for joy over the discussion of murder is even weirder. Am I alone on this? Perhaps not, because America seems to be eating this movie up, like a dog with its treats.
It’s really just a mixed bag. See it for the laughs and the cast. But don’t expect something cuddly.