REVIEW – The Cat’s Out of the Bag

The Secret Life of Pets doesn’t add anything innovative to the story-telling world, but it’s still a good time.

My boss is all about the yet-to-exist newsroom dog.

“I want a slobbery bulldog. He can live in a basket in the newsroom.”

It’s a dialogue he and I go through every few weeks. While I am a fan, I tend to counter with something a little more loaf-like.

“I like bulldogs, but I want a newsroom corgi.”

Well, whether it’s a bulldog, a corgi, a pomeranian – or, okay, forget the dogs. Maybe you like cats like Jon McComb (he has four). Or pigs. Or birds. Maybe you don’t have a pet. Maybe, like me, you’re not allowed to keep pets in your apartment, and you, instead, babysit a shih tzu every few weekends. No matter what kind of animal you like, odds are you’ll probably see it featured in The Secret Life of Pets. Featuring the voice talents of Louis C.K., Jenny Slate, Eric Stonestreet and Kevin Hart, the premise is simple: what do our pets do when we’re not at home?

Max (Louis C.K.) is a little rattled when Duke (Eric Stonestreet) is brought home from the shelter, interrupting Max’s and his owner, Katie’s life together. When tensions escalate between the two dogs while out on a walk, and they end up separated from their group, it’s up to Spanish-soap-opera-loving pomeranian Gidget (Slate) to save Max and Duke.

Regulars to the show know I’m a big cartoon fan. Horror films and cartoons are right in my wheelhouse (I know, it’s weird). However, I couldn’t get into this one as much as the kids did during the Wednesday night screening. Yes, I get that it’s one adventure – snapshot, if you will – in the secret life of one’s pet(s), but I was expecting something more enchanting from Illumination Entertainment. These are the guys who came out with Despicable Me back in 2010, and that cartoon played a pivotal role in the new round of respect the animated film world received. Plus, it’s tough to compete with films like Zootopia, where, not only the animation blows you out of the water – so do the themes and the story telling.

Looking at the film on its own, though, there are some shining moments. Jenny Slate is a true talent – that woman needs to be nominated for an Annie Award this year. I felt like Gidget was the only dog that had a bit of a spunky personality – she was fun to watch in this film. Gidget also has a number of the funny moments. As I alluded to earlier, the little fluff ball loves Spanish soap operas – so the scene that delves into this absolutely killed me. Snowball the bunny (Kevin Hart) isn’t as funny as I thought he would be, and many of his funnier moments made their way into the trailers. He’s pretty cute, though!

Putting together this particular story isn’t anything we’ve seen before. Throw in one catchy pop tune (Welcome to New York by Taylor Swift is in this recipe), and The Pokey Little Puppy (now with 200% more dogs – and way too many other kinds of animals to count) – and presto! That’s this movie.

Don’t disappoint the wee ones, though. Gauging their reaction in the theatres that Wednesday night, I’d say so many of youngsters who came out enjoyed it (lots of kids under the age of ten at this screening). The chortling, squealing and snorting by the younger ones in my section would seem to suggest the Road Runner/Wile E. Coyote antics work. It’s the same sort of thing we saw with The Angry Birds Movie.

I’m giving this film 3 bones out of five.

Check out the trailer below!

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