The Secret Life of Pets May Be the Best Animated Film of the Year
I’ve been excited for The Secret Life of Pets since I saw the first teaser trailer last year. It ranked high on my list of most anticipated films of the summer (above Finding Nemo) and my expectations were high. Then I saw the first trailer detailing the plot and was a bit disappointed because it seemed a bit unoriginal. Alas, I remained optimistic for the film because the trailers still made me laugh and I had hopes there was more to it than just two dogs getting lost in the city needing to find their way home. And I wasn’t disappointed!
The film begins with Max, voiced by Louis C.K., and his owner Katie. Life is perfect and all he ever wants to do be with Katie. In fact, when she leaves for the day, he chooses to sit and wait by the door for her to, which we soon learn this is actually the complete opposite of what our pets do when we leave them at home all day alone. We are quickly introduced to many new characters as we see them leave their homes to hang out with each other. But soon, Max’s world is turned upside down when Katie brings home a new dog named Duke, voiced by Eric Stonestreet. Unsurprisingly, the two don’t get along too well and Duke tries to get rid of Max in an alley which is when their big adventure begins.
So, I’ll say it now. Bare bones, the plot is pretty standard. It actually takes a number of plot points from Homeward Bound II, if you’re familiar with that classic dog movie, so it won’t win any originality points there. But that’s perfectly fine because really, it doesn’t detract from the film at all. I never once sat there thinking a scene was cliché. I was also too busy laughing the entire time, which brings me to my next point.
The Secret Life of Pets is one of the funniest animated films I have seen in a very long time. There is a solid 5-10 minute scene of almost non-stop laughter. This is in part because Illumination Entertainment absolutely nailed the personalities of the respective animals we meet throughout the film and it is expanded upon by the spot on voice casting.
What is most successful about the film is its relatability. Anyone who has ever had any kind of pet or watched videos of different animals can easily relate to this film. I think it’s safe to say we’ve all wondered or imagined what our pets do while were away and this film gives us a possible look into their world.
Now, the animation market is tough out there. It’s consistently lead by Disney and Pixar. Dreamworks also tends to have some incredible features as well. And now, Illumination Entertainment is really making a name for themselves with the success of their Despicable Me films and now The Secret Life of Pets. There’s still plenty of room to grow in order to catch up to Disney/Pixar and Dreamworks, but the films are quality nonetheless.
In the end, I’m torn on where to rank the movie. I loved this film to no end and will be adding it to my collection without any hesitation. My initial reaction was to deem this the best animated film of the year. Ballsy, I know; especially with the incredible Zootopia having already come out and the to-be-released Disney’s Moana later this year. But, where The Secret Life of Pets lacks in originality for its plot, it makes up for with its characters and comedy. There are also some wonderful adventure scenes and even a few nice heartfelt moments that’ll make you say awe. We all did.
So, with all respect to Zootopia, this is the best animated film of the year…so far, but only by the slightest bit! Illumination Entertainment has a winner on its hands here and I hope the box office shows that. It’s also good news because Universal plans to build an attraction based on the film at both their Orlando and Hollywood locations! I have no doubt this won’t be the last we see of Max and Duke and all of their friends and I’m perfectly OK with that.