Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Secret Life of Pets


It got off to a good start, showing pets who actually behaved like real animals. A nice example: The dog in the window across the street asks Max, the main character, what he will be doing today. He replies that he figured he would stand at the front door and stare at it until his owner came home. Sounds like a good plan, says the other dog. That’s cute. Also, dogs are fundamentally unable to stop themselves from chasing a ball … but didn’t they steal that joke from Up? Yes, they did. We see several poop jokes, and ass-sniffing jokes, and a Chihuahua so excited at his master’s return that a yellow puddle forms under him. Well, they didn’t put that sort of stuff in animated movies meant to be seen by children when I was a kid! I don’t mind. Poop and fart and piddle jokes are funny, let’s face it. But they kept stealing things. The antagonist they encounter is Snowball, a former magician’s rabbit, the head of an angry group of abandoned pets who live in the sewers. And he is flat-out stolen from a Pixar short from 2008 called Presto. His ears are a little shorter, that’s all.

It still goes well when the beloved owner brings home a giant shaggy mutt she found at the animal shelter, and the big doofus upsets all Max’s routines and quickly takes over everything. But then it moves out of the apartment and basically becomes an extended chase, with breakneck action hardly pausing for a moment. It strikes me that the majority of animated flicks these days are like that, giving little time to character development. Before the film began we saw previews for no less than five upcoming animated movies, most of them sequels, between now (7/26/16) and the end of September, and that’s not even including probable blockbusters like Disney’s Moana. Most of them started out with something like “From the creators of …” If this one does well expect to see a sequel, that will start out “From the guys who brought you Minions!” None of the previews made me eager to go out and see them. And the best I can say for this one is that it is mediocre.