Director(s): Chris Renaud, Yarrow Cheney
Cast: Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart (VOICES)
Release Date: December 6, 2016
A Review By: Kevin Lovell
Film Rating: 8/10
Disc Rating: 8/10
Comedy superstars Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, and Kevin Hart make their animated feature-film debut that finally answers the question: what do your pets do when you’re not home? When their owners leave for the day, pets from the building gossip with their friends, satisfy their sweet tooths, and throw outrageous parties. But when a pampered terrier (C.K.) and his unruly new “roommate” from the pound (Stonestreet) get lost in the urban jungle of New York City, they must put aside their differences to survive the epic journey back home.
From the animation team behind the ‘Despicable Me’ films and ‘Minions’ comes a new animated adventure for the whole family. ‘The Secret Life of Pets’ follows a lovable terrier named Max whose perfect life is unexpectedly disrupted when his best friend (or owner) arrives home with a new dog in tow. Upset by this drastic change Max sets out to try and get rid of Duke, the unwanted new addition to the family as far as he’s concerned. But when Duke decides to strike back, Max’s plan quickly backfires and the two soon find themselves thrust into the city of New York and thrown into one dangerous situation after another. Now they will have to learn to work together if they hope to stand any chance of finding their way back home. The film also features the voice talent of Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart, Jenny Slate, Ellie Kemper, Lake Bell, Albert Brooks, Hannibal Buress, Bobby Moynihan, Dana Carvey and more.
‘The Secret Life of Pets’ is enjoyable, humorous and refreshingly simplistic. Filled with lovable characters and all brought to life with beautiful and detailed animation that never falters or disappoints. The film certainly borrows some key ideas and holds some resemblance to the iconic ‘Toy Story’, but it’s nothing that ever actually harms the film, and while they undeniably share some similarities, it’s still an incredibly different film as a whole and also offers many different aspects along with the common factors. ‘The Secret Life of Pets’ is one of those animated adventures that happily has fun itself while still approaching a few serious matters with a sense of realism. Fortunately it never ascends into painfully depressing territory, and as a whole it requires little concentration, serving as a perfect animated ride that you can simply relax and enjoy without having to stress on important plot points. Its story isn’t anything groundbreaking or overly original, but that’s also one of the guilty pleasures here and oddly enough its faults often only contribute to the simple, grin inducing fun. ‘The Secret Life of Pets’ probably won’t win any awards or gain overwhelming acclaim, but it accomplishes what it sets out to do quite well and brings plenty of family friendly fun and laughs to the table throughout its course. For anyone looking to relax and enjoy an easygoing and thoroughly enjoyable 90 minutes with the entire family or even alone, this animated adventure should make a perfect candidate and I would recommend giving it a shot, especially for the fellow animal lovers out there who should only appreciate it that much more.
Fellow 3D enthusiasts should also have a tremendous amount of fun with ‘The Secret Life of Pets’ as it’s definitely a film that is not only improved by the 3D, but also embraces and fully utilizes its abilities without ever pushing it into ridiculous territory. Even the most common of shots such as our furry heroes walking down the street makes a point of approaching the shot from a lower, upward angle which allows the ground to leap out in front of you. It fortunately doesn’t make a point of unnecessarily throwing elements out of the screen at you every two seconds which can become tiresome, but it does offer plenty of notable and incredibly fun 3D moments such as a viper which appears to pop out the screen’s confines so perfectly that you almost feel it could touch your nose. Overall, this is a wonderful 3D film and presented beautifully by Universal on the Blu-ray 3D release; it’s certainly one the fellow 3D lovers should truly appreciate and likely won’t want to miss out on.
Overall, ‘The Secret Life of Pets’ is a beautifully animated and incredibly easy going adventure for the whole family which delivers some casual, simplistic fun complimented by a star studded voice cast and a story that might share some similarities with other popular family films, but nonetheless works perfectly and comes together into a pretty wonderful animated film that kinds young and old (this means you fellow adults) should both enjoy quite a bit, particularly the animal lovers and pet owners who should appreciate it all the more. It may not be a groundbreaking entry in the animated film department, but ‘The Secret Life of Pets’ delivers in every way needed and I would definitely recommend checking it out if you have the chance. The fellow 3D fans should also have a lot of fun with the film as it offers an immersive and enthralling 3D experience that only adds a great deal more fun to the overall viewing experience.
The 3D Blu-ray release of ‘The Secret Life of Pets’ features a full 1080p High Definition MVC encoded 3D presentation utilizing the film’s original 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio. The 3D video presentation looks magnificent as a whole and delivers a thoroughly immersive and incredibly fun experience. It offers plenty of noteworthy depth, along with clear distinction in the separation and levels within, in addition to providing some impressive pop out effects that always look clean, sharp and outstanding, and with no noticeable faults to be found. It holds up impressively even during the darkly lit and fast moving sequences, never allowing anything occurring on screen to become distorted or rendered indiscernible. Overall, this is a fantastic 3D high definition video presentation that contributes even more fun to the overall film and in my opinion is unquestionably the superior format in which to view the film for anyone who enjoys 3D in general.
The 2D Blu-ray release which is also included with the 3D Blu-ray combo pack features an AVC encoded full high definition video presentation also utilizing the film’s original 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio. The standard Blu-ray presentation looks marvelous in its own right and delivers a flawless, colorful and simply gorgeous presentation that should easily please the masses who would prefer to watch in 2D, or simply don’t have the capability to enjoy 3D at home.
The Blu-ray release (Both the 3D & 2D disc) features a Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 channel compatible) soundtrack. Please note that this review pertains solely to the lossless Dolby TrueHD 7.1 audio presentation. This lossless multichannel soundtrack delivers a clean, smooth and fairly active audio presentation from start to finish. It frequently utilizes all seven available channels in order to send the score, along with plenty of crowd, street and action related auditory effects whipping throughout the various speakers, along with many of the animal characters (especially the ones capable of flight) yet always making certain that any dialogue which may be occurring simultaneously never becomes distorted or rendered inaudible. Overall, this is a wonderful Dolby Atmos (TrueHD 7.1 channel compatible) soundtrack that contributes even more fun and perfectly complements the film.
The Blu-ray release of ‘The Secret Life of Pets’ includes a number of enjoyable extras which are included on both discs although presented only in 2D. Included on the release are ‘3 New Mini-Movies’ from Illumination; they include: ‘Norman TV’, ‘Weenie’, and ‘Mower Minions’ (running approximately 4 minutes each), along with an included bonus Featurette ‘The Making of the Mini-Movies’ (running approximately 7 minutes). We are also treated to a collection of behind the scenes Featurettes and fun videos for the whole family, including everything from behind the scenes footage, interviews/comments with the cast and crew, and some fun sing along videos for the kids and more. The included Featurettes/Videos are: ‘The Humans That Brought You Pets’ which is broken down into separate segments, each introducing you to members of the creative team (running approximately 8 minutes combined), in addition to ‘Animals Can Talk: Meet The Actors’ (approximately 4 minutes), ‘All About The Pets’ (6 minutes), ‘Hairstylist to the Dogs’ (4 minutes), ‘How To Make An Animated Film’ (4 minutes), ‘Anatomy Of A Scene’ (5 minutes), ‘The Best of Snowball’ (1 minute), a “Lovely Day” Lyric Video (2 minutes), and a ‘Hot Dog Sing-Along’ (1 minute). An Extended Trailer for the upcoming Illumination film ‘Sing’ (approximately 4 minutes), a few specials from Fandango titled ‘Brian the Minion on Pets’ (3 minutes combined), and a ‘GoPro The Secret Life of Pets’ advertisement (2 minutes) are also included.