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SECRET LIFE OF PETS, THE

What to know: A combination of a fantastic cast, beautiful animation, original story and hilarious jokes.
KIDS FIRST ALL STAR
Recommended age 5-18
90 minutes
FeatureFilm
UNIVERSAL STUDIOS - THEATRICAL DIVISION
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SECRET LIFE OF PETS, THE cover image Click to play video trailer
What do you get when you combine a fantastic cast, beautiful animation, original story and hilarious jokes? You get this new animated masterpiece, The Secret Life of Pets.

The Secret Life of Pets is predominantly a comedy however, there is much more to this story than nicely delivered jokes. The film also dips into a cute romance story with a very strong main sense of adventure. Some action is involved to spice things up as well as some drama to keep the viewer at the edge of their seats and help see the relationship between the on-screen characters to their own pets.

The adventure begins when Max (Louis C.K), an ordinary house dog, gets a new doggy brother, Duke (Eric Stonestreet). The two don't exactly become friends at first and when they end up at a park, they get separated and must go on a huge adventure where they meet many strange and interesting creatures as they journey back to their owner.

This film is a rare case where there is truly nothing to complain about. The comedy appeals to all ages. In the audience, kids were laughing throughout the entire film and so were adults. The story is entertaining and never gets boring or drag on. And, it keeps creating new fun ways to entertain the viewers. I also enjoyed many small references to other films. The whole movie has a very relaxed feel, which is perfect.

The cast is legendary with Louis C.K, Kevin Hart (Snowball), Albert Brooks (Tiberius) and more - all making the characters truly come alive. Visuals of downtown New York are stunning and greatly enjoyable. It is also worth mentioning that I greatly enjoyed the classical soundtrack of the film which is very unexpected for an animated family comedy. But, it elevates the jokes in many places and spices things up without going overboard.

My favorite scene is when Duke and Max run into a sausage factory during their journey home. At the factory they, of course, eat many sausages and both overeat and imagine a heavenly sausage world. This goes back to the very relaxed feel of the whole film and the scene is completely random but seems to fit perfectly and made the audience laugh nonstop.

This film is meant for kids, but It appeals to adults too. I recommend it for ages 6 to 18. Some of the scarier animals may be a bit much for younger kids. I rank it 5 out of 5 because of its original idea, fantastic casting, new and funny characters, wonderful soundtrack and great sense of humor.

Reviewed by Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

Let the debates begin and if they haven't begun, allow me to start: Zootopia or The Secret Life of Pets? - two acclaimed comedic animated movies featuring talking animals. Well, I'd like to throw in my opinion - The Secret Life of Pets, while less cleverly plotted, is much better written and animated. This film will not dazzle you with a wonderfully woven plot, but it will undoubtedly entertain you with dynamic characters and strong jokes that land more often than not.

The day of New York City misadventures for Max and the newly picked up Duke, is reminiscent of those zany 50s and 60s comedies. Without coincidence, those decades were very popular for films set in the "City that Never Sleeps", particularly for comedies. Jokes about hipsters moving to Brooklyn and New York City alleyways are featured in the film, paying homage to the city. But even better than that, are the beautiful shots of New York City in this film. It would give the opening scene in Manhattan a run for its money. The cinematography in this film is absolutely gorgeous, worthy of being full sized paintings to hang on your wall. Master shots include New York City at night with the lights from the moon and the buildings illuminating the city, aerial shots of the city in the daytime with beautiful weather and an air of inspiration. The images captured in this film are among some of the best of any animated feature ever and I've no issue saying that.

But, the imagery isn't the best part of the movie. Naturally, its the characters of the film. For a comedy of this nature to be successful, the writer/s must come up with strong characters who make strong choices. So the jokes end up bolder and have a higher probability of landing. This movie is filled with those. Archetypes pervade the movie such as the longing ing´┐Żnue, the idiotic gang leader, the fearless elder and the neurotic straight man (the main character). These familiar characters were popular in comedies during the 50s and 60s and further highlight the style of film this is, which is quite refreshing. As a matter of fact, the relationship between Duke and Max is reminiscent of Walter Matthau (Duke) and Max (Jack Lemmon), who were a successful duo in cinema in the 50s and 60s. This film is so much like others of that era, I can see Billy Wilder directing this.

Lastly, and what impressed me most, is the score. It is an up tempo, lighthearted score. But, what makes it so impressive is how often it is used. In today's comedies, a score isn't used often. Because we're in an age of off-beat, dry comedy, an accompanying score ruins the tone and wipes away the awkwardness. This film uses the score like those comedies of the 50s and 60s, which creates a more lighthearted comedic tone and gives comedic rhythm to the scene. It also makes scene transitions less awkward and helps with pace. The score itself is a wonderful, having been scored by the great Alexandre Desplat (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Deathly Hallows Pt. 1 & 2). I'd love to see it in contention for the Best Score Oscar (although seeing the fate of Inside Out's beautiful score, it may not happen). So with all of this nostalgia, the movie really impressed me. It's not easy to go against the grain and pay homage to classic Hollywood. Speaking of which, I am loving this trend in animated films today that reference older movies. Inside Out referenced Chinatown, this movie referenced Some Like it Hot (a cat says to a dog trying to date her, "I'm a cat" and the dog says "Well, nobody's perfect"), The Birds, and Grease (even singing a song from the musical). It's very satisfying for movie fans.

With all of that said, I give this movie 4 1/2 out of 5 stars. The reason it misses out on perfection for me is because I feel the plot could have been tighter and I wish the film had a little bit more to say, or at least say it meant to say a little louder. But nonetheless, I know your kids will enjoy this film and you will too. I recommend it for ages 6 to 18 and it can be seen at a local theater near you when it opens July 8.

Reviewed by Willie J., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

Hysterically funny. Great cast, wonderful animation and delightful story. I found myself laughing pretty much throughout the entire film. There is quite a lot of chase scenes, barking, animals discussing killing humans so, I don't recommend it for very young children. For those old enough to look beyond that, it's an imaginative story that adults will enjoy along with their kids or grand kids.
Taking place in a Manhattan apartment building, Max's life as a favorite pet is turned upside down, when his owner brings home a sloppy mongrel named Duke. They have to put their quarrels behind when they find out that an adorable white bunny named Snowball is building an army of lost pets determined to take revenge.
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