By Justin Rev Ino Tamang
When the owners are away, the pets come out and play – that is the main premise.
The narrative focuses on Max (Louis CK), a dog owned by Katie (Ellie Kemper). The two have the perfect owner-pet relationship, at least until Katie brings home a large mongrel named Duke (Eric Stonestreet). Max disliked the idea of having to share the house and, of course, Katie’s attention. So, the two bicker, fight, and end up getting lost. Max and Duke try to find their way home while their other pet friends team up to look for them.
This film is adorable; its cuteness knows no bounds, no doubt about it. It is clear that the primary objective is to entertain – and it does so successfully. If you want to have a good laugh, The Secret Life of Pets can and will give you that.
But perhaps the most interesting thing about The Secret Life of Pets is that it shows how familiarity can be a double-edged sword.
This movie is pretty much a rehash of the first Toy Story movie, only this time it’s all about pets. Max is a clear parallel of Woody while Duke is Buzz. Even the plot holds some significant similarities. And if we are to compare which of the two tells a better story, Toy Story takes the cake. It is this close juxtaposition to the 1995 classic that makes The Secret Life of Pets familiar to a fault.
Plot-wise, The Secret Life of Pets is straightforward. There’s not much of a story outside of its main premise. But in a way, this simplicity and (arguably) predictability work in the film’s favor, given that it’s a feel-good movie. One could just watch every frantic sequence and follow the hilarious chaos that ensues and it would still entertain. It won’t make you think, but it’ll let you experience fun.
The most amusing parts of the film are when it depicts the premise in the title. There’s a lot of fun to be had in the moments where pets act as a mix of human and animal. Each pet shows its quirks and it’s all hilarious. Through these scenes, The Secret Life of Pets creates its own identity. It creates a distinct portrayal of how pets view themselves as opposed to the case in Toy Story.
Design-wise, the animators deserve a lot of credit. The pets’ appearances match amazingly well with their respective personalities. It also succeeds in depicting the busyness, restlessness, and chaos of a big city like Manhattan.
The Secret Life of Pets is that kind of film one would watch simply to have a good laugh. Its story is a little too familiar to be enjoyable, but the quirky parts make it worth the watch.