Review: Is “The Secret Life of Pets” an Overused Storyline?

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David Misyura, Reporter

“The Secret Life of Pets” is the latest animated film released by the studio behind the “Despicable Me” series, Illumination. The movie takes on the premise of exploring the daily lives of pets when humans are not home, thus making way for plenty of humorous and creative moments throughout the movie. The opening shows viewers the comfy pet-life of Max, with his owner Katie, and continues by showing the antics partaken by Max’s friends and other pets in Manhattan. A cat eating the food in the fridge, a pug going nuts over squirrels, and a dachshund getting a massage from a food mixer are all among these fun-filled actions. The movie’s trailer relied on this concept to entice the audience to viewing it later at release, but such a concept would only amount to YouTube-style cat videos, and wouldn’t amount to an entire feature-length film.

In mine and others’ opinions, “The Secret Life of Pets” follows a plot perhaps too similar to that of Pixar’s “Toy Story,” with terrier Max becoming jealous of the adopted mongrel, Duke, who takes his owner’s attention away. Max’s jealousy then grows into disrespect, leading him to treat Duke like a servant. This creates friction between the two, eventually causing them to fight at the dog park and to get progressively more lost as time goes on. If you’re familiar with the plot of Pixar’s “Toy Story,” then you would know that the two protagonists would embark on a long and difficult journey to return to their owner’s home, with them both setting aside their differences in order to complete the journey. That’s exactly what happens in this movie.

Yes, this movie follows the same framework as “Toy Story”, but an argument can be made that it is just another take. I personally dislike “Toy Story” because I don’t enjoy the idea of toys being alive. That’s where this movie caught my attention, with its pets providing an interesting idea that I could go along with. It opens the door for lots of humorous and adorable moments of pets being pets, so it makes sense I found “The Secret Life of Pets” so enjoyable. Most people own a pet or two, so I think Illumination rightfully capitalized on this concept. I would like to see, however, an original storyline in the future if a sequel is to be made. An overused storyline is an overused storyline, even if it is done better the second time.

Aside from the average storyline, the rest of the movie is pretty enjoyable. Careful thought was put into creating the lives of the pets when they’re home alone, and it shows. Max’s friends are all distinct and add to the colorful humor and character of the film, making it stand out even further as a movie that doesn’t aim high, but rather focuses on the intricacies of our relationships with our pets, and theirs with other pets. “The Secret Life of Pets” stood out for me from a lot of the movies that were released in theaters in the same month for that reason, and the subjective experience of going out to watch a movie is one that I think should be valued more. Most of us watch movies for escapism and to enjoy ourselves, and not to critique all the flaws a movie may have. Thus, I give high marks to “The Secret Life of Pets” for providing something that I felt I haven’t experienced for a while in the theaters; a fresh concept that’s executed well enough to provide an hour-and-a-half’s worth of entertainment that simply begs for a re-watch.