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Plot Summary: The quiet life of a terrier named Max is upended when his owner takes in Duke, a stray whom Max instantly dislikes.
It's common to see similar animated films, often chalked up to coincidence. These thematic twins are often in the same year and done by two different animation studios - often seen as rival films. Before seeing 'The Secret Life of Pets' I would have thought this was the visual rival of Zootopia...it's not...it's actually rivaling another Disney film, Toy Story. So much in fact that it eerily echoes the 1993 film in a fashion that I can only describe as "plagiarism". We're no longer using coincidence as a factor - because almost 25 years have passed since Toy Story was released. I don't know...all I know is you can't copy an iconic movie like that. The Secret Life of Pets tried...and failed.
'Toy Story' with Pets. So...Pet Story.
Let's make a quick recap of the concept of the film in order to give you some retrospect. This is a story about a house pet whose owner welcomes a bigger dog into the home. The original dog doesn't like this newer dog and wants to get rid of it. In his thoughtless attempts, he accidentally gets himself and the newer dog lost in the wilderness, which means they have to find their way back again, and learn about friendship and acceptance along the way. Meanwhile, his pet friends attempt to find him too (more like Toy Story 2 at this point). Need I say more?
If they didn't copy it right out, then I'd be shocked. Sure, the obstacles they run into are a little different, but premise and foundation are identical. Even the pet friends they have bare some resemblances to the toy friends, it's ridiculous. So here's where I might be okay with that: I love Toy Story. Honestly, that has to be one of my all-time favorite Pixar films. So why didn't I love this one?
For one, the characters aren't as memorable, nor are the voices, and neither is the adventure they take as a whole. While it has a big range of actors in the roles, I had no idea who was actually voicing anyone...because these are actors that do better in live-action than voice-only. The designs of the animals aren't very unique...so people are going to have a hard time picking apart these specific animals vs. animals in the background of any other animated feature. The adventure they take is boring, the creatures they run into are forgettable - everything past the intro and the crossing of the threshold is pointless, officially making The Secret Life of Pets a boring Toy Story.
Easily one of the worst animated films of 2016...so far
"The characters are bland, the story is ripped off, the adventure is poorly constructed, and the side characters could all die and no one would care."
I can't exactly say I've seen all of the films released in 2016...not by a long shot. This time three years ago, I had reviewed 350 films...this year I'm up to maybe 50, 30 of those are 2016. So in theory, there could be far worse animated films, but as it is...this one takes the cake so far (for me). I tried to decide between a 4/10 or 5/10 rating for this film. I landed on 4.5, but was nice and rounded up. This movie is simply no good. While it drew strength from a few physical humor and poop jokes, the rest falls flat. The characters are bland, the story is ripped off, the adventure is poorly constructed, and the side characters could all die and no one would care. Even my kid was easily distracted while watching this.
I wanted to like this movie, I really did. The problem came down to creative writing - something this film severely lacked. I looked deep, trying to find some originality, but in the end, it failed on far too many levels. If you want to watch a film like this, but done right, see Toy Story.
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