With Pixar’s Finding Dory currently blowing away box office records, another delightful animated film is getting ready to hit theaters. The Secret Life of Pets, featuring an all-star voice cast, is the fifth fully-animated film by Illumination Entertainment. The studio is known best for the Despicable Me series and The Lorax, with the former being the most successful of their ventures so far. But their new animal-talking adventure tale may just take first place when it comes this July.
Since animated films are generally marketed more towards kids, critics’ reviews usually aren’t too big of a factor in how financially successful they are. But with the tides having turned somewhat as of late, critics actually do have some impact for the older audience members. And for those who can’t wait, the first reviews for The Secret Life of Pets have just floated in. They seem to make out the film as being a fun, animal-filled adventure. Those comments alone are enough to convince many out there to buy a ticket. But that’s not to say it’s without flaws. So while the reviews describe a relatively mid-level adventure, it should still make for a joyful time. Check out some critics’ thoughts below.
ScreenDaily – Wendy Ide
The latest film from Chris Renaud (Despicable Me) and his team is a madcap caper full of densely-packed sight gags, dizzying action set pieces and a healthy side-helping of Renaud trademark silliness. While it lacks the equivalent of the small, yellow USP of the Despicable Me series, this should still generate healthy returns from family audiences for Universal. The likeable central characters could potentially sustain at least one of the almost inevitable sequels which will follow.
THR – Jordan Mintzer
Funny in stretches but capable of making you feel like you’ve dropped MDMA and locked yourself inside Petco for several hours, this big-ticket Universal release should play like catnip for kids starting summer vacation, though it’s unlikely to dig up the massive $1 billion bone of this year’s other anthropomorphic blockbuster, Zootopia.
Variety – Peter Debruge
In what may as well be Illumination’s answer to “Toy Story,” “The Secret Life of Pets” imagines how domesticated animals behave while their owners’ backs are turned, concentrating on a dynamic where newly adopted dog Duke (“Modern Family” star Eric Stonestreet, in the Buzz Lightyear role) disrupts the balance in a household where Max (Louis C.K., as the Woody equivalent) had previously been his human’s best friend. The formula may be familiar, but the personalities are completely fresh, yielding a menagerie of loveable — if downright ugly — cartoon critters banding together to help these two incompatible roommates from ending up on the streets.
Guaranteed to have you thinking about adding to your own family, The Secret Life of Pets is perfectly cast, serves up the laughs and life lessons in equal measure and comes up with so many great characters that a sequel is imperative. Next time ’round they need to give Louis C.K. and Eric Stonestreet a bigger slice of the side-splitting though, because while Max and Duke are a great double act Kevin Hart as mouth almighty Snowball and Lake Bell as jaded tabby Chloe get all the killer one-liners. A spin-off is well in order, and here’s hoping for cameos in next summer’s Despicable 3.
IndieWire – Ben Croll
How’s this for a shock: it turns out this summer’s biggest, wildest action flick is… about talking dogs. Stranger things have happened, but there it is. “The Secret Life of Pets” moves like a bat out of hell from frame one, though if you’re looking for any kind of emotion you might be barking up the wrong tree.
Even if it doesn’t match Finding Dory or Zootopia, Illumination Entertainment’s latest seems strong enough to satisfy most. Along with the beautiful animation, The Secret Life of Pets should also appeal to both animal lovers and fans of the A-list cast. So who knows, we could be looking at one of the bigger hits of the summer. Stranger things have happened.
The Secret Life of Pets opens in theaters on July 8, 2016.