What it's about:
A group of domesticated pets living the comfortable life in a Manhattan apartment block get a glimpse of city's 'discarded pet underworld' when the group favourite, Max, is mistaken for a stray.
The mix-up is thanks to Max's new adoptive brother, Duke, a giant unruly canine that's seen some time in the vile NYC pound. In order to survive, Duke and Max are forced to work together to get back home, beating their odds against a gang of abandoned pets on a mission against the humans who've done them wrong.
In the meantime, the loyal apartment block domestics launch a rescue mission for Max with a Pomeranian, Gidget, at the lead.
What we thought:
It's a simple idea for a movie, really. And that's exactly what makes it work - it makes you wonder what your pet(s) get up to when you're not home. Or, in cases that happen so often, what happens when your dog or cat goes AWOL for a day or two...
Also, The Secret Life of Pets is just what you expect from watching the trailer. Nothing more, unfortunately. I can compare it to the Marvel and DC Comics films - crammed full of golden nuggets and brilliant, punchy one-liners, but less in total than the sum of its parts.
With the range of multi-dimensional animations out there, it's difficult to get away with a children's production that doesn't appeal to an adult audience - parents who are considerate of their children, and grown-ups who love watching kids' movies - too.
Don't get me wrong, The Secret Life of Pets is entertaining to watch regardless of your age, plus it encourages life lessons of loyalty and friendship. But it's not as profound as Inside Out, Zootopia, or Frozen for that matter. (Considering it's from the makers of Despicable Me, however, it’s come a long way from glamorising a villain...)
Technically, it's on fleek. The plot is faced-paced and convincing. Voices and characters are well cast and well developed, and it's hilarious to identify and compare your own pets with the characters in the film.
The identities of the various breeds - loyal, lively terriers; lazy, self-absorbed tabby cats and seemingly absent-minded but deadly detective-like basset hounds - should have any owner nod and grin in agreement.
What the pets in the movie get up to without their owners' knowledge is also particularly funny - and very thought-provoking if you're a pet owner yourself.
There are parts where the movie goes off plot a bit. It's obvious the producers aimed to keep kids entertained with the slapstick parts. For adults, though, seeing a dog's dreams of swimming in sausages can be a bit lame, frankly.
What the film owes adult viewers for those lame parts, it makes up for with raunchy jokes, which will likely (read: hopefully) fly over kids' heads. The film gets away with it, though, under the cover of fur and fluff.
In true Despicable style, there are also some flashes of dark humour - death, abandonment etc. A fluffy bunny that was once a magician's assistant is now the leader of ‘The Flushed Pets’ gang, a bunch of sewer-dwelling semi-ferals that dream of killing all humans, for example. Mild stuff, really.
But don't worry, the movie closes to a sweet lesson for kids: Loving a pet is one of the most incredible relationships on Earth. And adopting a pet is perhaps the kindest thing you can do on Earth.
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