Film: The Secret Life of Pets.
Directed by: Chris Renaud and Yarrow Cheney.
The Secret Life of Pets is a 3d Computer animation comedy written by Brian Lynch, Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio. This is latest production out of Illumination Entertainment best known for the Despicable Me/Minions franchise. It stars Max the terrier (Louis C.K) and a wide variety of his friends and their day out in in Manhattan when Max and his family’s new edition Duke (Eric Stonestreet) get lost and Max’s friends set out to find him.
Much of this film hinges on a combination of cute animal slapstick primarily and character interactions a close second, worked through a premise established in films such as Toy Story (which did it better), and the typical animation style and characteristics common to the latest fare from Illumination.
The combination works in overall conceptualization as the animation style and the character designs provide perfect vehicles of reactions and bodies for the humour which was balanced for a decent amount of the film, particularly through the secondary characters.
The stand out character was Gidgit (Jenny Slate) and her…vigorous search for Max, particularly as a counterpart in her reactions with the apathetic cat Chloe (Lake Bell) who retains a fair amount of her stereotypical cat indifference, though shows a bit of care here and their enough to not leave her completely static. Both characters entertaining personalities and physical presence int he film- Gidgit as the leader/asskicker and Chloe who brought a lot of the slapstick- brought an energy to the film (though in different ways).
The only fault for either is the tacked on romantic drive and conclusion between Gidgit and Max at the end does feel unneeded, and Chloe wasn’t given enough screen time with the other characters to form any solid dynamic except with Max and peripherally with others.
The film also felt like it didn’t take advantage of all the possibilities it could that the premise combined with the setting of the entirety of Manhattan and the variety of characters presented.
In fact, it likely would have probably benefited from a more slice of life style sticking perhaps within the apartment building itself, which held even more potential which was only touched upon in part in the film, there was a lot of untapped narrative and plot potential there.
A little over the first half of the film in particular is where the most entertainment is found, though once you get into the later end, it begins to unravel somewhat. Transitions between moments become a bit less fluid and bit more jarring without what felt like a few small necessary moments to make the conclusion flow more solidly. the second half, or to be generous, the last third, feels like a rushed and somewhat half-assed need to wrap it all up.
Overall the film has some decent comedy and characters, but it suffers from only taking a shallow approach to the depths that its premise combined with some of the setting and characters presented. The secondary characters were good, but sharing space with the main characters left the main characters little time to establish their own engaging and believable dynamic. It leaves spectators somewhat entertained but not overly invested in the film as a whole.
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