Tuesday, December 6, 2016


Illumination Studios kinda sucks right? I'm not the only one who has picked this up right? I don't hate their animation style, I don't even hate their characters, it's just all so cheap and generic. I'm not joking when I say that, I was almost tempted to copy and paste a lot of different quotes from my past reviews to make a point, but no I'd rather just say it, The Secret Life of Pets, is the most generic movie I've seen all year. No this isn't the worst, it's not even the worst animated feature (Hello Norm!), but it's probably the perfect example of why Illumination kinda sucks.

What's the plot of this movie? Have you seen the first two Toy Story movies? Great, you've seen The Secret Life of Pets. Okay so there's more to the movie than that, but almost every plot point feels reminiscent of Toy Story, occasionally other Pixar, Dreamworks and even Illumination films, which makes the whole thing less funny, and more akin to a checklist. Louis C.K. and Eric Stonestreet are fine as Max and Duke, but they're both just weaker version of Woody and Buzz, making their journey that much less interesting, that is when the movie decides to focus on them anyway. Yup, this movie can't be bothered to at least make their budding friendship the focus for too long, we have to see the wacky hijinks of all supporting characters, resulting in a friendship that never stands out because we just get the bare minimum, but it's okay, as long as you've seen all the movies this is a copy of, why would you want to see anything unique?

Okay, in fairness, there are some positives here, for example Jenny Slate as Gidget, Max's love interest in the film. Putting aside Slate's always adorable voice, Gidget gets a few chuckles here and there with her determination to find Max being a bit of a highlight. I actually would've preferred the movie be about her rescue mission, a reversal on the damsel in distress trope? Great, not the most original, but it could be unique and funny, instead this is wasted on this film about a budding dog friendship, which also is about a revolt from abandoned pets, which is also about slice of life pet moments, which is also about making extended, go nowhere physical gags, what a waste. Gidget's quest even starts feeling like a lesser version of the rescue team from Toy Story 2, which is largely because the film spends only the bare minimum of time on this subplot, disappointing.

Another reason Gidget's quest is a high point? Tiberius, voiced by Albert Brooks, well mainly his introduction. Yes, this ends up being another wasted feature of the film, but Albert Brooks as this hawk character starts off pretty intimidating, I honestly assumed he was gonna be a minor villain, hell, he could've made a great villain in a better film, but sadly he gets turned into a another comic relief, which wouldn't be too bad as he has does make for some funny gags, but he slowly moves into the background before being forgotten entirely, becoming you guessed it, a useless, wasted character.

Speaking of villains, this movie has a great concept with Kevin Hart's Snowball and his army of abandoned pets trying to a revolt against humans aaaaaaand yup, this is wasted too. Imagine if this were a Pixar film, this army would result in a third act where you actually see the animals attacking people, here it's just an obstacle for the leads, with their greatest crime being... grand theft auto? Yeah what exactly is this group doing against humans? It's all played for laughs, which is fine, but the build up hints at something bigger, which is never fulfilled. It's okay though, because by the end the characters don't even care about their goals anymore, it's all a waste of time.

So The Secret Life of Pets, is a bunch of decent to great ideas wasted. Yes some of the humor gets a few good chuckles, but so much of the movie never focuses on a single aspect, resulting in anything unique feeling generic. Anything that could've been big, feels small scaled, which is something Illumination has made a habit of, turning plots with big ideas into small scale stories, which sucks because it means nothing is fully taken advantage of. Unless you're watching this with a young child, I recommend you skip this one, though in truth, even if your kid desires to see this, I'd still recommend you skip this in favor of a better film for all audiences.

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Written by Octaviano Macias

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