Illumination Entertainment has taken a page from Pixar’s mega success and included a short in front of their recent effort, The Secret Life of Pets. It’s called Mower Minions and reminds you that these little yellow compatriots are still celebrities to the 6-and-under crowd, their fart jokes just as relevant and hilarious as ever.
On to the main event, a 90 minute movie that also wants to remind you that it’s by the same team behind the Minions. The little owner of a guinea pig snuggles beside a Minion toy at night. And a dog gets dressed up as a Minion for Halloween (is it just me or does a second dog get outfitted as the foul-mouthed teddy bear, Ted?). Pixar does the same sly product placement, making sure its current characters are fans and consumers of their older stuff. The comparisons to Pixar, much as the humans behind Despicable Me might hope they continue, pretty much end there.
I liked this movie. Very much. But I’m a dog person and a quadruple dog owner. If you remind me of them, or engage me about them, of course I’ll smile. They’re furry little bundles of unconditional love and loyalty and joy. If you make a movie about dogs and it’s not a complete delight, you’re probably a miserable fuck.
The Secret Life of Pets earns a belly rub every time it reminds you of your own four-legged friends. For me it was the escape via temporary fencing (we had a pool built this summer, and our yard was a logistical nightmare) and the sausage-induced delirium. While I don’t think our dogs have ever broken into a hot dog factory (though how would I know?), they do experience what we call “wiener fever” every time we have leftovers from the grill.
The movie merely gets a perfunctory pat on the head though when it comes to story-telling. Oh, it’ll please the pants right off your kids. They’ll love it. And you’ll find it much less annoying than those insufferable Minions. But it’s a superficial story that will have no lasting impact on anyone. Of all the talking animal movies this year (Finding Dory, Zootopia), this one will seem inconsequential in comparison. Yes the doggies talked – but what did they have to say?
So take it for what it is: an incredibly talented voice cast, a solid use of 3D, and a pleasant way to either babysit the kids or while away a rainy afternoon.