Saturday, July 23, 2016

On THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS

It was a hot day in New York City.  A dear friend wanted to spend time together and have lunch.  Before lunch, we caught a late morning showing of THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS. We're both animation fans and dog lovers.  An air-conditioned movie theater, an audience full of well-behaved kids and a very entertaining feature.  What a fine way to pass the time before lunch.  This feature has a few elements similar to the action and motivations we saw in the classic Warner Brothers cartoons from Chuck Jones.  It has a manic pace and a few of the subversive kind of sights gags you'd associate with the classic Tex Avery cartoons from MGM in the 1940s.  The tough bunny who's the gang leader of rebellious pets is very much an Avery type of cartoon character.  Especially when he accidentally poops. The youngsters in our audience absolutely loved his poop scene.  That got a huge laugh.  The main character is Max, a terrier who has a sweet life living with a young single female in Manhattan.
Louis C.K. voices Max and he's a smooth vocal fit for this terrier.  When Max's owner adopts a new dog -- a big shaggy dog who takes up a lot of Max's space -- conflict arises.  As we knew it would.
Chloe the extremely catty and self-absorbed cat gives Max advice on how to handle the situation.
Chloe is one of Max's buddies in the pet-friendly apartment building.  She tickled me.  Chloe just can't stop eating.  Her appetite will eventually bring her public humiliation.  And she deserves it.
Duke the new dog and Max bicker a lot.  While out for a walk, they get detached from the dog walker and wind up prisoners in a truck headed for the dog pound.  That's when the crazy bunny, voiced by Kevin Hart, swoops in, saves them and demands they join his gang of abandoned bad-ass pets.
Gidget, Max's neighbor, senses that something's wrong.  Gidget is in love with Max but he doesn't realize it.  She sets out to rescue the dog she loves.  Max and Duke flee from the bad-ass pets.  We see action that visually references movies such as WEST SIDE STORY, BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID, JURASSIC PARK and SPEED.
I instantly fell in love with fluffy, festive and love-struck Gidget thanks to the delightful voiceover work from comedian/actress Jenny Slate.  That was some wonderful voice casting.
This is not a 4-star animated feature in a league with THE INCREDIBLES or a canine classic like Disney's LADY AND THE TRAMP.  But the animation is quite appealing and there's no shortage of action.  The idea of what the house pets do when the owners are away at work is a clever one -- similar to the idea of what do toys do when the kid owners aren't in the room as we saw in the modern classic, TOY STORY.

You do, however, wonder what kind of job that young single female has and where she lives in Manhattan.  She's got a great apartment with a fabulous view in a building that lets her have two dogs.

If you have youngsters under the age of 12 and you need some family time at an air-conditioned movie, THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS is a colorful and energetic 90 minute feature that will entertain the little ones and the grown-up dog lovers.




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