Film Review: The Secret Life Of Pets

If you’ve ever wondered what the furry – or feathered – members of the family get up to once you’ve shut the door, the latest from the people who brought us Despicable Me and Minions reckon they’ve uncovered the answer.  The Secret Life Of Pets, released Friday, 24 June, certificate U, treads a similar path as recent TV documentaries, but this time in animation.

London Mums’ resident film critic, Freda Cooper, saw the film – and pawsed for thought ……

Secret Life Of Pets pic 2

 

The story

Nearly all the residents in one New York apartment block have pets.  And everybody knows Max (voice of Louis C K), the little dog that lives with Katie.  He adores his mistress so his moist little nose is put right out of joint when she brings home some company in the XXL shape of another dog, Duke (voiced by Eric Stonestreet).  The two don’t get on but, while out with their dog walker, they both lose their collars and find the Animal Patrol on their tails.  To protect themselves, and help find their way home, they join forces with a group of human-hating animals, led by an especially vicious bunny, Snowball (voice of Kevin Hart).

 

The trailer

 

 

The verdict

When the first trailer for the film was released a year ago, the response was rapturous, especially among animal lovers.  It tapped into pet owners’ suspicions that their moggies and mutts had a whale of a time while they were out, pin-pointing some endearing animal behaviour along the way.  Now the film’s arrived in cinemas, it’s sadly obvious that all best parts were in that trailer.  The first section of the movie is set in the apartment block and gives us a longer version of what we saw last year.  It’s also the best part because, once the animals venture out into the big wide world, it turns into a chase movie.  With lots of chases.  Max and Duke are usually the targets, with either the Animal Patrol, some nasty alley cats or Snowball and his gang behind them.  It means that there’s plenty of action for the children in the audience, but it does get more than a little repetitive.

As the people behind this also created Gru and his Minions, it’s no great surprise to see there’s a short companion piece, Mower Minions, with Stuart, Kevin, Bob and some friends becoming gardeners to earn money so they can buy a blender.  Why?  To make banana smoothies, of course!  And it’s full of the usual, good natured nonsense and hilarity that you’d expect from the little yellow guys.

 

Secret Life Of Pets pic 1

 

But it shows us something else.  That it was a great idea for a short, but nothing more.  The same applies to The Secret Life Of Pets.  It would have made a great short film – and it could have been as long as 40 minutes – but as a feature film, it’s been padded and stretched to the limit to fit the mandatory hour and a half.  There simply isn’t enough there and it’s sadly very obvious.

It’s also missing another essential ingredient.  None of the characters really grab you.  Max is likeable enough, so is Duke, but neither of them have anything that will turn them into family favourites.  And their friends are one-joke-wonders.  Buddy the dachshund uses the KitchenAid to give himself a massage.  Leonard the poodle listens to Vivaldi when his master’s at home but, once he’s gone to work, the dog turns out to be a head banger.  Great sight gags, but not great characters.  But, to their credit, they’re more endearing than Kevin Hart’s psycho-bunny, Snowball, who is just plain nasty and not especially amusing.  His mouthy little critter is enough to put anybody off bunnies for life.

 

Secret Life Of Pets poster

 

London Mums’ Rating: 4/10

After all the enthusiasm and expectation that greeted the first trailer, The Secret Life Of Pets is a real disappointment, falling well short of all that promise.  The story’s flimsy, the characters are likeable but far from distinctive and the end result is, dare I say it, far from purrfect.

 

Kids’ verdict

Here is sweet Lilly (5) from the London Mums Kids Club telling us why she enjoyed the film in her first blog:

 

The Secret Life Of Pets is released on Friday, 24 June and reviewed on Talking Pictures on Thursday, 23 June 2016.

About Freda Cooper

Film critic and radio presenter Freda Cooper has been a movie fan all her life - the best qualification for the job! A contributor to a number of film websites, she also presents her weekly podcast, Talking Pictures, a finalist in the UK Podcasters Awards. Her movie blog, formerly The Coops Review, is now also called Talking Pictures, and was shortlisted at this year's UK Blog Awards. And you can hear her film reviews every Friday morning on BBC Surrey and BBC Sussex!

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