By Michael Kaye
The Secret Life of Pets (Review)
I've been a pet owner for pretty much my entire life. I've had a dog, three cats and a variety of different fish. So of course, when I saw the first teaser for this movie last summer, I was already excited. I've also just been a major supporter of Illumination Entertainment, having enjoyed both Despicable Me films, as well as the Minions spinoff (haters gonna hate). So without further ado, here's my editorial for The Secret Life of Pets, directed by Chris Renaud and starring Lewis C.K.
Here's the story. After the two-legged residents head for work and school, their pets gather to start their day, which consists of hanging out, trading humiliating stories about their owners, and helping each other work up adorable looks that will lead to more snacks. The head hound is a quick-witted terrier rescue (Louis C.K.), whose position at the epicenter of his master’s universe is suddenly threatened when she comes home with Duke (Stonestreet), a sloppy mongrel with no polish. The two soon find themselves on the mean streets of New York, where they meet the adorable white bunny Snowball (Hart). It turns out that Snowball is the leader of an army of pets that were abandoned and are determined to get back at humanity and every owner-loving pet. The dogs must thwart this plot and make it back in time for dinner.
Since Wes Ball already did most of the heavy lifting with his own review, I get to have some fun talking about Illumination Entertainment and the competitive field of animation. But first, here are my quick thoughts on the film.
The Secret Life of Pets had me smiling from start to finish. I'll be completely honest, because of my history as a pet owner, I have a little bit of a bias. The plot is nothing new, it basically takes the skeleton of the Toy Story trilogy and fills in the gap with plenty of animal themed humor. The attention to detail was pretty damn impressive, and I thought the voice actors did an incredible job. The standouts for me were Lewis C.K. as Max, Jenny Slate as Gidget, and Kevin Hart as the scene stealing bunny Snowball. This movie, as well as the rest of Illumination's output is probably the closest thing we'll get to the spirit of the old Tex Avery cartoons, with their energetic style of animation. Finally, the score by Alexandre Desplat was great, totally fitting the New York setting. This is definitely a movie I'd recommend seeing with the whole family.
Now that we have that taken care of, let's get down to business and talk about the rest of the year in animation, and just how competitive it looks to be for the rest of the year.
First off, might as well talk about Illumination Entertainment's second film of 2016, Sing. This movie's got the much sought after Christmas release date, which always guarantees huge numbers at the box office. The premise is simple, it's the animal version of American Idol, so expect a wide variety of pop songs from the past couple of decades. It's also got some amazing voice talent, including Matthew McConaughey, Scarlett Johansson, Seth MacFarlane, Taron Egerton and John C. Riley. How lucky must Illumination be to possibly have two big hits this year!
Speaking of McConaughey, he actually has another voice acting gig next month in Laika's latest film, Kubo and the Two Strings. This is the directorial debut for Laika's president and CEO Travis Knight, who was previously the lead animator for their previous films. I'm already hearing positive things from people I know that have attended the recent press conference for the film, which makes me happy because this was not just my most anticipated animated film of the year, but film in general.
One release that I'm less enthusiastic about is the latest Ice Age sequel, Collision Course. I feel bad every time I crack jokes at Blue Sky Studio, because it's not like I hate everything they've done. The first Ice Age is a genuinely great movie, and I really liked Horton Hears a Who and The Peanuts Movie. But those damn Ice Age sequels are getting into Transformers territory, where no matter how low the domestic box office gets, they keep making money hand over fist overseas. So unfortunately, we're not gonna see the end of this franchise anytime soon.
This next movie sounds like a terrible idea, but I trust the people behind it. Sausage Party is Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg's first foray into adult animation. Who knows if this'll work, but if it's a success, the possibilities will be endless. Perhaps this will lead to Seth MacFarlane fast tracking that Family Guy movie he's been dying to put on the big screen for the longest time.
Bare with me, I have two more films left to go. The penultimate feature for this rundown is Warner Animation Group's Storks, written and directed by Nicholas Stoller and produced by Phil Lord and Chris Miller. Thank God The Lego Movie was such a success, because now WB has finally re-entered the competition after quite a long absence. And with vocal talents such as Kelsey Grammer, Andy Samberg, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele on board, expect some huge laughs.
Finally, no discussion of animation would be complete without mentioning Disney, who's already having a spectacular year altogether. Zootopia is Disney's second animated film to reach the Billion Dollar Club, but can they do it a second time this year with Moana? Well, there are a couple names that might help push this film to that goal. One of them is Lin-Manuel Miranda of Hamilton fame, who's writing the music. The other is Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, who's become a bonafide movie star over the past couple years, thanks to his roles in the Fast and the Furious franchise and San Andreas.
So there's my layout of the rest of 2016 in animation, and boy what a lineup we have here. I'm very curious what you guys have to say about all of this. First of all, have you seen The Secret Life of Pets, and if so what did you think? Also, which animated films are you looking forward to for the rest of the year? Drop your thoughts in the comments below, and stay tuned for my next reviews, where I finally get myself caught up on some of the smaller releases that I missed in theaters.