Daddy is Disappointed: The Secret Life of Pets (2016)

I am one of the horrible people who thinks of my pets as my children. Yes, my wife and I are “mommy” and “daddy” respectively. As shameful as it is, and trust me I know it is, eh… it’s less shameful than other things I’m a party to but will not go into here. So of course as soon as I saw the trailer for The Secret Life of Pets I pissed myself, shaking with excitement like a neurotic chihuahua. Okay, maybe I’ll let that one idiosyncrasy be known, but that’s it for the embarrassing confessions.

As far as The Secret Life of Pets was concerned, I hoped it was going to be engaging like Toy Story. Yes, I was one of “those” children who thought their toys came to life the instant I wasn’t looking.

From the trailer I was expecting some humorous anecdotes of the everyday life of pets as anthropomorphized people. I don’t know why the little vignettes in the trailer made me think I was going to get David Sedaris level satire in a cartoon, but nonetheless it’s what I thought. Considering the poodle that starts head banging to System of a Down’s “Bounce,” which I absolutely loved, it was wildly unfair to expect so much. The Secret Life of Pets a animated family movie. Sometimes a cartoon is just escapist fun for children.

In it’s defense The Secret Life of Pets was a fun enough movie. Like Toy Story it follows the the animals while their people are away. Unlike Toy Story, The Secret Life of Pets never really retches a deeper level of emotional connection. Max (Louis C.K.) has a blissful life with his owner, Katie (Ellie Kemper). One day Ellie brings home Duke (Eric Stonestreet) from the pound. The two dogs are at odds and have to learn to live together. They get into an adventure which pits them against animal control, vicious predators, and unwanted pets who have gone to live in the sewer system.

The Secret Life of Pets has a few funny moments. Most of the laughs are shown in the trailer with a few additional gags children will enjoy. There’s not much by way of humor for the adults in the audience. For instance there’s Snowball (Kevin Hart), the blood thirsty but super cute small, white bunny. In theory the idea is funny. In execution it didn’t come off as ironically funny as it seems on paper. That is, for the adults. Children will likely find him hilarious because they don’t have any other (better) frame of reference. For me Snowball is sadly derivative of the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

In the end I have to remember that The Secret Life of Pets is a story for kids, a family movie. My expectations were too high. Thinking about it as an animated film for the whole family, The Secret Life of Pets is a nice hour and a half diversion. Being an adult looking for a little bit more, the kind of story you get from animated films like Toy Story, The Secret Life of Pets left much to be desired.

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