“The Secret Life of Pets” had an excellent cast and was horrible. (Mike Coppola/Getty Images)
This week I intentionally went to hate-watch “The Purge: Election Year” and I excitedly went to see “The Secret Life of Pets.”
“The Purge: Election Year” was the best movie I saw this week.
As a person who grew up with dogs and doesn’t really like “I love my dog more than I love my wife” jokes because I truly think that’s an acceptable way to feel, a movie about pets tickled my fancy. Add in that it was made by the people behind “Despicable Me” and “Minions” and had a cast that included Louis CK, Jenny Slate and Hannibal Buress and this figured to have the makings of a borderline perfect movie.
It wasn’t just that it fell short of those expectations. It’s that it legitimately wasn’t funny or enjoyable at all.
The previews (which many first saw when going to see “Minions”) painted a here’s-what-goes-down-at-home-when-the-owners-are-away picture, which is a hilarious premise. Yet all those bits are out of the way in the opening minutes and it’s downhill from there. Louis CK’s Max gets a housemate against his will when his owner brings in Duke — a gigantic rescue dog that could be something of a nod to Louis CK’s hilarious bit about how Clifford the Big Red Dog wouldn’t be a story if the author hadn’t made the dog so big — and, although the other pets in the neighborhood like Duke, the original pet is put off by the new guy’s presence.
(If you haven’t picked up on this by now, the movie is just a much worse version of “Toy Story”).
Soon, Max and Duke get separated from the rest of the pets because the local dog-walker neglects them at the park because he’s got really bad allergies and keeps sneezing. That’s the one funny part: The dog-walker is a guy with allergies. Of all the professions, right? At least there was that one funny thing.
Nope, that didn’t even happen. The dog-walker neglected the animals because he told a girl wearing a hat that he liked her hat. What a horrible movie.
Anyway, Max and Duke are separated from the pack and eventually get saved from animal control by another group of animals led by Snowball the bunny, who is voiced by Kevin Hart. It’s at this point that I must say that Kevin Hart’s character was perhaps the only redeeming part of this movie. There is way too much Kevin Hart in the world, but he absolutely killed this performance.
Yet while it seems like the pets are in good hands, it actually turns out the leader of these other animals (Snowball) is crazy and won’t let them escape.
(If you haven’t picked up on this by now, the movie just a much worse version of “Toy Story 2.”)
Led by a dog voiced by Slate, Max and Duke are rescued from Snowball’s gang, but Duke and some of Snowball’s crew are soon seized once again by animal control. Together, Max and Snowball hijack a bus and race at furious speeds over the Brooklyn Bridge.
(If you haven’t picked up on this by now, the movie just a much worse version of “Speed” and “Monsters vs. Aliens.” Yes, both of those movies take place in Los Angeles, but this is still worse than both of these movies. “Monsters vs. Aliens,” by the way, is excellent.)
Normally, aspects like these aren’t worth picking apart because it’s a kid movie. Surely there are funny jokes filling in all these gaps, or at least there are more interesting story lines happening simultaneously. Not the case here. Aside from the occasional outburst from Hart’s Snowball, there really weren’t any funny jokes. There was also a lack of adult jokes sneakily inserted, which are known to be staples in these types of movies.
In the end, Max rescues Duke, everyone goes home and the owner (Ellie Kemper) returns home and gives both of her dogs a big hug. Man, even Ellie Kemper was in this movie. Lake Bell, too. Such a good cast. Ugh.
Peter Travers of Rolling Stone writes in his review that he “choked up a little.” Where? I cried my eyes out at “Toy Story 3″ and have been out of commission for like a year after every pet’s death in my life. I can honestly say there wasn’t one second of this movie that tugged at my heartstrings, and I’ve got heartstrings in spades.
All things considered, this movie would have been better-served as a short consisting only of the stuff in the beginning of the movie when the owners aren’t home. There’s a party scene in the middle of the movie that could be thrown in there for good measure, and it would make an entertaining five-ish minute watch. Ninety minutes was just way too long and way too boring, and that’s saying something. How in the world can you make something with a bunch of dogs so bad?