Saturday, July 08, 2017

The Secret Life of Pets (2016)

Max is a lucky dog and he knows it.  He has a place to live and a human that he loves and that loves him back.  That’s why he’s surprised when his owner, Katie, brings home a new dog, Duke.  Things go from great to scary when Katie brings home a big, hairy dog named Duke.  Duke seems friendly at first, but eventually takes a liking to his new home…and Max’s bed.  Max is adamantly against this intruder, but this is an animated movie.  While Max and Duke can communicate with each other in English, Katie hears nothing but barking.   Max’s complaints go nowhere.

Max has an idea, though.  He can damage enough of Katie’s vases so that Duke looks bad.  Duke gives in, but has an idea of his own.  He finds a weakness in the fence of a dog park.  It would be simple enough to abandon Max somewhere in the city.  Duke would have the apartment all to himself.  What Duke doesn’t count on is a gang of cats stealing their collars and leaving them for animal control to deal with.

Both dogs are put in the truck with a third dog.  Just when it looks like neither is going home, Snowball comes to the rescue.  Well, to the rescue of the third dog, specifically.  It turns out that Snowball and his cohorts hate humans.  Max and Duke agree with the rhetoric to get Snowball to spring them, as well.  You see, Snowball leads a gang of abandoned pets called The Flushed Pets.  All of the animals had homes until they didn’t.  Snowball, for instance, was a magician’s rabbit until the human found another job, making Snowball unnecessary.  Since many of the other animals would be considered exotic pets, it’s presumable that the others have similar stories.

Back home, Max’s friends band together to rescue Max.  They’re led by Gidget, who seems to have a small crush on Max.  She even enlists the aid of a hawk named Tiberius.  The adventure takes all three parties across Manhattan and Brooklyn.  Max and Duke even search for Duke’s previous owner.

You might wonder why I would give away so much information about a movie.  I think most adults won’t be surprised.  I’m not saying that the movie is formulaic.  It’s just that it does follow a certain pattern that I’ve seen before.  You have one character leading a nice, comfortable life.  That life is disrupted by an unwelcome newcomer who inadvertently sets them off on some wild ride.  There is at least clear threat, usually more, as the two characters face danger at every turn.  (In this case, Max and Duke have to worry about animal control and The Flushed Pets.)   While that adversary isn’t a great threat, there will be one life-threatening, paradigm-shifting situation that will cause the first character and the newcomer to become friends.

The movie is still entertaining.  It’s exactly the kind of movie that would be safe for kids and enjoyable by the parents that have to bring them.  There are a few dangerous situations for the characters.  Max and Duke are faced with the choice of being attacked by The Flushed Pets or a long fall into unclean water.  There are one or two scenes where their lives are in real danger, but it’s a comedy.  There’s no real expectation that Max and Duke won’t go home.  In fact, it’s exactly the kind of ending you could get a sequel out of.  I just hope that this doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone.


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