July 10, 2016

The Secret Lives of Pets

An outstanding voice cast elevates this silly, benign comedy.
Louis CK as the lead terrier Max, and Jenny Slate as his lovesick neighbor Pomeranian Gidget are standouts. Kevin Hart is good as a manic rabbit / Che Guevara-style radical revolutionary, and Lake Bell nails the sociopathic cat Chloe. I also loved Dana Carvey resurrecting his hilarious old-man voice he used to use on SNL- now Carvey's over 60 and the voice sounds even better! Oooh, I almost forgot Steve Coogan as a demented alley cat.
It's not Pixar-level brilliant, but it's a lot sillier and more carefree than a potentially heartbreaking movie like Finding Dory. The Secret Lives of Pets really captures the personality quirks we associate with these animals.
The Secret Lives of Pets is from Illumination Entertainment, the same studio that made Despicable Me. My wife and I saw Despicable Me when it first came out six years ago (before the movie and its sequels and spinoffs became a childhood phenomenon, before anyone knew who a Minion was).
At the time we both enjoyed "a terrific comedy for adults and kids" and that holds true here too. The Secret Lives of Pets also maintains a distincly non-American, universal flair: I appreciate the near absence of pop culture references, but why did they go to so much trouble to set the movie in New York City if none of the characters or locations has any New York personality?
The plot was a tad derivative and sloppy: just like with Woody and Buzz in Toy Story 1 (twenty years ago), Max's owner brings a new dog home (Duke) that upends Max's comfortable routine and rivals Max for her affections. Max's schemes to remove this threat triggers the chain of events that lands them both in peril, far away from home.
My only other tiny little complaint is all the moments of objects zooming directly in front of the "camera" to enhance the 3D effects. We saw the movie in 2D and usually those moments are pretty benign, but in The Secret Lives of Pets it felt like everything had to fly directly past our noses.
There's only two moments that the littlest kids would find scary- my six-and-a-half year old son claims the giant fanged anaconda wasn't scary, and the near-drowning scene wasn't scary either?
Belmont Studio Cinema