‘The Secret Life of Pets 2’ Review

If you have been following this blog you know I am not a huge fan of Illumination Studios. In particular their popular yellow gibberish talkers, the Minions, drive me bonkers. Occasionally they will give us a break from our yellow tick-tacks with a Sing or The Secret Life of Pets– my 2 favorite from the studio most of their offerings are mediocre at best. Pets is particularly memorable for me because it was the first time I went on Rotoscopers podcast and it helped inspire me to podcast more. Now we have The Secret Life of Pets 2 and to my surprise I really enjoyed it!

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One of the challenges of these films is how many characters they establish. It almost necessitates a Toy Storyish plot where they can all contribute little bits to the journey. This makes a sequel even more difficult because do you do more of the same or try to come up with something different? I know many were scared from the trailer The Secret Life of Pets 2 would end up being a copy of Toy Story 2, but that is not the case.

Instead they divide up our team into 3 smaller stories with a vague theme tying them together (almost like a package film or TV series). It definitely has an episodic feel and will do very well when aired on television, but I didn’t mind it. I can see how some will want a more over-all plot but each part was strong enough (particularly 2 out of 3) that I left entertained.

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The first plotline involves Max’s owner Katie getting married and having a child named Liam. Max is very protective over Liam and starts scratching himself out of the anxiety he feels. As someone who deals with anxiety this was handled pretty well and may be a good touching point to talk to kids about how to deal with these strong emotions. Plus the relationship between Max and Liam is very sweet and easy to relate with (it’s a dog and a baby. Who can dislike that?).

Max, Duke and the family end up going out to the country where they meet a sheepdog named Rooster voiced by Harrison Ford (I believe his first voice acting role?). Rooster is disgusted by Max’s cowardice and helps encourage him to face his fears and have more confidence. These scenes while predictable were charming and sweet.

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The second subplot is about Gidget (who is my favorite from the first film) trying to retrieve a bumblebee toy Max gave her to guard while he is away. The problem is the toy is stuck in the home of a crazy cat lady with dozens of cats! She even talks Chloe (my other favorite) into giving her lessons on how to be a cat. This section had some nice physical comedy and slapstick that made me laugh.

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The final plot centers around Snowball, the Kevin Hart voiced bunny who is convinced he is actually a super-bunny because of the way his owner plays with him. He meets a new doggie named Daisy (voiced by Tiffany Haddish, who evidently must be in ever animated film this year). Daisy is upset because she saw a baby tiger get taken by a mean man at the circus. Snowball and the team of pets must save the tiger and restore order to the city.

This was the least successful of the 3 plots. First of all, I felt bad  the circus  is once again dragged through the mud. Most circuses took very good care of their animals and there aren’t many reported instances of abuse or neglect. It would be illogical of them to do so since they need the animals to perform in the show. I don’t think the circus is much worse than any other zoo experience, and yet they are usually the evil villains (Dumbo was a better, more fair approach). However, this portrayal of the circus wasn’t really my problem. It’s that Snowball is irritating and the villains are bland. I got a little sleepy to be honest in this section.

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While some may not care for the episodic nature of the story in The Secret Life of Pets 2, I didn’t mind it. The characters are cute and there are enough laughs and heart to keep my interest. The  vocal performances are all good (Patton Oswalt does a good job subbing out for Louis CK) and like I said, the message on overcoming fears is really sweet.

Alexandre Desplat deserves a huge shout-out for the music. It really helped sell the comedic and action- filled scenes, making me smile. The ending credits are also very sweet and heart-warming.

I have no doubt The Secret Life of Pets 2 will make a boat-load of money but for once it is deserved. The pets are adorable and the 3 sections (especially 2 out of 3) are charming and helpful for kids. I still wish Illumination would challenge themselves artistically more but there’s value in a simple comedy where characters learn simple lessons. I walked out having had a pretty good time.

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Overall Grade- 7 out of 10

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Secret Life of Pets Review

So I’m back friends from Spain!!! I hope you guys enjoyed art book reviews while I was gone. I enjoyed writing them very much and if there are any art books you would like me to review in the future let me know. Being gone for 12 days I naturally missed a number of movies, which I will now need to play catch up.

The first one that needed to be looked at was of course the animated film- The Secret Life of Pets. This is made by Illumination, a company which I have not been a fan of.  I particularly did not care for their entry last year Minions. But I enjoyed the teaser trailer for Secret Life of Pets and was excited to see something from Illumination without little yellow men in it…

And I saw the film and you know what I actually enjoyed it.  It’s a ring down from Finding Dory and Zootopia but I was charmed by the film.  Here is my youtube review.

I also had the honor and privilege yesterday to be a guest host for the Rotoscopers podcast!  I have followed the podcast for some time and am a patron so this was really neat. I hope you guys like my contribution.  Please give the video some love and maybe they will invite me back again someday.

Anyway back to the movie.  Let’s go over some of the pros and cons of the film.

The first thing that struck me right away about the movie is how great the cityscapes and NYC skyline looked.  It is the best NYC has ever looked in a film IMO. Not that many films are set in a city so I really enjoyed the urban environment. It reminded me a little bit of NYC in Oliver and Company.

pets pets2I am not a dog owner but the whole premise of the secret life of pets is adorable. What do pets do after their owners have left the house after all? Unfortunately the movie abandons that premise for a generic search and rescue pretty early on but I still liked the set up. I liked that it wasn’t just dogs and cats but all kinds of pets like guinea pigs and birds as well (even a crocodile at one point!).

pets7I didn’t mind the lead characters Duke and Max but my favorite were the side characters particularly Chloe and Gidget. They were very funny. The writing for these side characters was on point and I laughed quite ae bit.

gidget pets3Overall I was engaged in the story and thought it was a charming film.

But there were some cons so let’s talk about them.

A big problem many will point out is the similarity to Toy Story. As you can tell by my love for Good Dinosaur I have no problem reusing storylines from other films; however in this case I feel they missed out on a few things that make Toy Story special. The movie never achieves an emotional moment like the Toy Story films do.  There is a weak attempt to do so with Duke’s former owner but it doesn’t work. I think what would have worked better is if their owner Katie had realized they were gone and was upset missing them.  That would have given the movie more emotional heft than just a search and rescue film.

pets6Also they make Duke a little bit too unlikable. One of the things that makes Woody so jealous of Buzz is how much everyone loves him. We never get any moment to see what makes Duke special or why we should love him.  He’s just the annoying new presence in Max’s life and nothing more.  Also when they do become a team working together it doesn’t feel earned.

pets4My other problem with the movie is the Underbelly section with Kevin Hart bunny planning a revolution against the humans.  There was actually some funny writing and jokes in this section but I found Snowball to be an annoying character. Every line he gives it feels like he is shouting and clenching his fists. I wanted to say ‘calm down for half a second’.  The whole underbelly sections of the film feels generic and didn’t do much for me.

I also feel certain characters don’t really fit like Tiberius the hawk voiced by Albert Brooks. Maybe I’m too attached to that voice from Marlin in Finding Dory but it didn’t work. Other characters like Pops we don’t really get to see enough of to make him an effective character.

However, like I said the banter between Gidget and Chloe is very funny and I liked Max as our lead hero.  There’s also some good laughs throughout and our second animals driving a car scene for the summer.  I also felt the music cues and score by Alexander Desplat really worked well.

So overall The Secret Life of Pets did have problems but I left feeling happy I have seen it and charmed by the film.  I think your kids will enjoy it; although there are some moments of pet peril so be forewarned. It’s not a film you have to jump in the car and see but I liked it. It’s definitely Illumination’s best film by far.

Also the Mower Minions I can do without! Get them out of here!

My end grade on Secret Life of Pets is a B-.  What would you give it and what did you think of the film? Let me know in the comments section.

 

The Tale of 3 Terrible Trailers

After an epic day yesterday I wasn’t going to post today but we got a new trailer from Dreamworks and I couldn’t hold back my feelings.  Dreamworks released their trailer for the Fall release of Trolls and what a stinker of a trailer it is!  Don’t get me wrong, the movie could somehow be good (I didn’t like Peanuts or Lego trailers and loved those films) but everything from the dancing, to character design to everything looks awful.

It’s extremely frustrating when I know Dreamworks can produce quality work (seeing Kung fu Panda 3 tonight which has great buzz so I’m excited!).  The Panda and Dragon films are quality franchises and they’ve made amazing stand-alone films like Rise of the Guardians, Prince of Egypt, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimmaron.  Even Mr Peabody and Sherman I really enjoyed but then they squander all that talent on twerking dolls and annoying alien movies.  Why Dreamworks?  Why?

Unfortunately that wasn’t the only terrible trailer to come out for 2016 animated film.

We got a new Angry Birds trailer this week and it looks awful too.  I actually thought the teaser looked ok, better than expected, but this longer trailer looks at best on a Rio level of quality.  The battle between the pigs and the birds just doesn’t look good to me!

And then we got a Secret Life of Pets trailer and it was also very disappointing.  I was actually impressed with the teaser trailer enough to put it on my anticipated of the year.  Boy is that out the window with this new trailer.  I was so deflated to see Kevin Hart is the lead of the story and it is about organizing pets in some kind of rebellion.  That is such a tired concept and I am so sick of Kevin Hart.

So, needless to say my anticipation level for 2016 animation just sunk a little lower.  It could be a rough year folks!  At least we have Zootopia, Moana, Finding  Dory and Kubo and the Two Strings to look forward too.

And as I said there are bad trailers for good movies so we will see!

Am I being too tough on these 3 trailers?  What did you think?

Here is my youtube review of these trailers:

3 Animated Trailers

3 new animated trailers came out today.

There’s a new Peanuts trailer

It looks interesting although I worry they are making the characters too old.  I don’t picture Peanuts characters going to school dances and things like that.  What makes Peanuts funny is they are little kids thinking these deep contemplative thoughts.  That said, I like the style, voicework and I think it looks like a cute movie.

Then we got a new trailer for Hotel Transylvania 2

Adam Sandler is one of my least favorite people in entertainment but I enjoyed the first Hotel Transylvania.  It’s not that original but a cute fish out of water kind of story with some good jokes.  I think this new one looks even better with Mavis’ baby not being a monster and them having to move.  This makes Dracula upset and doing anything to keep them there.  It probably won’t be a masterpiece but I think it will be fun.

Finally we had a trailer for one that hadn’t been on my radar called The Secret Life of Pets.

This one does not look like my cup of tea.  It feels a little Toy Storyish but instead of toys its animals and those copycats have been terrible (need I remind you of last year’s Hero of Color City…).    And I think the whole pets are alive usually is a bad idea (think Cats and Dogs which is awful).  It could be like Over the Hedge which I thought was strong for first 20 minutes and then loses its way.  The voice performances look solid but the project looks tired, so I’m not looking forward to this one. This is also really long for a teaser trailer.

So which out of the 3 are you looking forward to most?  I would rank them 1. Hotel Transylvania 2, 2. Peanuts, 3. Secret Life of Pets