After a week long trip to spend time with my soon to be dog psychiatric service dog, Atticus …I decided to check out Illumination Entertainment’s newest animated film, “The Secret Life of Pets.” It only seemed fitting. I’m not afraid to admit that I am a 33, going on 34 year old man who is comfortable enough to watch and enjoy animated films. I also must add that I enjoyed this film entirely by myself. Choosing the first matinee showtime today paid off because after therapy I really just wanted to be alone. I arrived one hour early for my session today due to my phone being stuck in EST time-zone. Has that ever happened to you? Quick tip, just restart your phone.You might ask why I am reviewing such a film for my blog about my life with Bipolar. It turns out, films are in a sense therapy for me too. I enjoy them and as I’ve made it well known to you all …film is art.
Don’t let the title fool you, although it’s titled with pets, it’s mostly a dogs story. The location of this film is based in New York City (NYC), and I must say the animated New York in all of its glory is far better than the real life concrete jungle. No offense to NYC, I do love the city and I’ve lived there twice (I’d likely do it again), but Illumination did a phenomenal job putting the scenery and imagination together to create a vivid and unforgettable backdrop.
The cast has your go to real life comedians such as Louis C.K., who plays the main character, a dog named Max. Here’s Max.
Then there’s Kevin Hart who plays a conflicted evil bunny, Albert Brooks portrays a former killing machine of a hawk but turns out to not be the antagonist of the film, Dana Carvey depicts an old grumpy Basset Hound whose ears are too big (I can relate) and is doggy wheelchair bound, Jenny Slate an uppity Pomeranian, Eric Stonestreet plays Duke who is a beast of a dog. Lake Bell plays a morbidly obese, Chloe (perhaps the funniest cat I’ve known of – too bad it’s an animated cat). There are too many other to list but you can see the full cast here.
The film starts off with the story of how Max and his human owner, Katie met. Max is seen inside of a box on a sidewalk in NYC that advertises “free puppies.” He was the only pup left. Max is a handsome little furball and he adores his owner Katie. I think the opening 10 minutes and the last 2 minutes of the film accurately portray the feelings pets have for their owners. Especially Max and Katie’s relationship. Having shared my home with dogs my entire life I can’t ever remember my dog not being excited to see me when I arrived home. Even if I had just walked outside to take out the trash. Apparently dogs don’t really have a sense of time. However, I don’t completely agree with this because your dog knows when to expect you to arrive home daily as part of their routine so it would seem they do have some sense of time.
After we are told of this story of Max and Katie. Then we are taken through a portrayal of what pets do when their owners leave, which was the only hilarity of the film for me. Next, the unthinkable thing happens to Max (but for me it would be over joyous) …Katie brings home another dog. Not just any dog, a big furry grizzly dog named, Duke…did I mention big? Duke was picked up from the shelter so it was a very warming and heartfelt for me. Have you ever been to an animal shelter? It’s so hard for me but I like to think of the happiness the dogs must feel just to be shown a little bit of love, even for a few moments is worth all the sadness I feel when visiting shelters. Max is rightfully jealous at first and feels threatened by this huge beast of a dog. The first night for the two is conflicted and Max gets kicked out of his own bed and is forced to sleep on the floor. The next day Max decides to devise a plan to get rid of Duke and he does so by ruining the modern minimalist apartment. Since Max has lived there for years and not damaged anything other than Katie’s shoes, there’s no way Katie would think he trashed the place, right? We’ll see.
In order to avoid further damage inflicted by Max, Duke agrees to comply to Max’s sometimes childish demands. It is one of these demands that gets the pair in trouble. The two get away from their dog walker who is too busy flirting with some woman to notice two dogs are missing and end up in an alley with 100s of cats. Imagine that … sounds almost as bad as small talk. The cats have an affinity for shiny dog collars and dog tags and slice Duke and Max’s right off their necks. By doing so, this leaves the pair up for the dog catcher. Before I go further let me tell you this story about myself and dog catchers. Once when I was a little dude, around 5 or 6 at the most, my mom and I were sitting at 4 way stop behind an animal control van. We were just chatting about something and then the next moment changed the animals lives forever….the doors swung open and around 15 dogs jumped out of the van. My mom and I quickly reacted and jumped out of the car and scooped up all of the dogs. Even the seemingly vicious one who later turned out to be just a scared little guy. We sped off and lost the evil dog catcher in traffic. Loved seeing that guy disappear in the rear view. We later found homes for all of the dogs. Back to the film, well it takes no time in NYC for a dog to be picked up who doesn’t have on a collar and we witness that in the film.
Around 2 minutes into the ride we learn that Duke was just picked up from the shelter (but you already knew that didn’t you …yea because I told you already) and is trembling with fright of the thought of going back. Well, he doesn’t have to tremble for long. It turns out there was a dog gang member (yes, a dog gang member) who was picked up also and is busted out by its fellow gang members who consist of an evil bunny, a chameleon, and a tattoo riddled pig. Max and Duke made up some elaborate story of how they belong in the gang (in order to be set free) because they killed their owner. The evil bunny is intrigued and frees the pair and leads them into their lair, which is the sewer. Long story short, once the gang with its two newest members meets up with the rest of the gang it is soon realized that Max and Duke lied (those stupid cats they encountered earlier are a part of the gang and reveals to the rest of the gang that they are just two domestics). It turns out that the sewer gang, that consisted of many types of animals from mammals to reptiles, has hatred for domestics. We get a glimpse that the hatred is due to some former abandonment or mistreatment by their former owners. At any rate, the gang now wants to punish and or kill Max and Duke. This leads to the pair trying to escape the presence of this lair and en route, Max and Duke lead to the death of the gangs leader, who just so happens to be an elder Viper with one fang.
Good news…the pair escape and they’re off to Brooklyn. The problem here is …they don’t live in Brooklyn. We are then taken on the journey of the duo trying to find their way home. During this time we learn about a heartfelt story of Duke’s past. I won’t give that way because it is a touching story that happens to many animals. Also during this time, Max’s friends had noticed that he was missing and they’ve been on a mission to find them this entire time. Eventually everyone meets up but there are some hurdles a long the way. Then there is an epic battle involving Brooklyn bridge, a Pomeranian, and a diving bunny. The only death in the film is the Viper. Does the duo make it home to Katie? You bet.
My takeaway from the film? That New Yorker’s work too damn long because all of this happened while their owners were away at work.
The film wasn’t what I expected. Even though I enjoyed it (mostly because of Max and Duke’s story) there are a lot of parts I could have done without. I laughed for the entire 5 minutes of scenes portraying what animals do as soon as their owners leave. Unfortunately that was the only time. However, I am an adult watching a film geared towards little humans. With that said, I would still recommend the film, especially for said little humans. It’s rated PG.
Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes.