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Movie Review

The Secret Life of Pets also known as “Pets,” “Pets - Vita da animali,” “Pets: A Vida Secreta dos Bichos,” “La vida secreta de tus mascotas,” “A Vida Secreta dos Nossos Bichos,” “A kis kedvencek titkos élete,” “Comme des bêtes,” “Husdjurens hemliga liv,” “Kæledyrenes hemmelige liv,” “Lemmikkien salainen elämä,” “Milulu Slepena Dzive,” “Sekretne zycie zwierzaków domowych,” “Slaptas augintiniu gyvenimas,” “Tajne avanture kućnih ljubimaca,” “Tajni zivot ljubimaca”

MPAA Rating: PG for action and some rude humor.

Reviewed by: Bob Subjenski

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens Adults
Animation Family Comedy 3D
1 hr. 30 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
June 16, 2016 (festival)
July 8, 2016 (wide—4,100+ theaters)
DVD: December 6, 2016
Copyright, Universal Pictures click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Universal Pictures

importance of friendship and loyalty

love / helping a friend in need

anthropomorphizing animals

What do animals really think?

issues involving pets

abandoned pets

responsibilities of pet ownership

importance of choosing a pet wisely

animals in the Bible

Featuring: Louis C.K. … Max (voice), a Jack Russell Terrier
Ellie Kemper … Katie (voice), Max and Duke’s owner
Jenny Slate … Gidget (voice), a white Pomeranian who has romantic feelings for Max
Kevin Hart … Snowball (voice), a white rabbit
Albert BrooksTiberius (voice), a hawk
Lake BellChloe (voice), an obese tabby cat
Eric Stonestreet … Duke (voice), a mongrel dog
Tara Strong … Additional Voices (voice)
Jim Cummings … Additional Voices (voice)
Steve CooganOzone (voice), a Sphynx cat
Dana Carvey … Pops (voice), an elderly basset hound, who is paralyzed in his back legs
Hannibal Buress … Buddy (voice), a dachshund
Bobby Moynihan … Mel (voice), a pug
more »
Director: Chris Renaud
Producer: Illumination Entertainment
Universal Pictures
Distributor: Universal Pictures

“Ever wonder what your pets do when you’re not home?”

Oh, how I eagerly waited many months for “The Secret Life of Pets” to be released, anticipating an epic animated movie along the lines of “101 Dalmatians” or perhaps even “Toy Story.” Instead I left the tiny movie theater feeling like I just viewed a glorified Warner Brothers cartoon, complete with a deranged rabbit that makes Bugs Bunny seem like Bambi. Was I disappointed, not really. Was I happy, not really. Makes sense?

The movie opens innocently and funny enough, showing us several scenes of different pets acting in ways that would horrify their owners if they were home to see them. We quickly find out that Max (Louis C. K.) is an extremely lovable terrier who is the central character of the movie. All the other pets in the building Max lives in hang out in his apartment during the day while their owners are at work. All is perfect for Max in his paradise of a home until his owner brings home a new dog, Duke which she rescued from the dog pound. Duke and Max quickly become rivals, with both of them taking turns having the upper hand.

An attempt by Duke to get rid of Max once and for all horribly backfires, causing the two of them to ultimately wind up being caught by two inept dog catchers who also have a vicious dog inside their truck. Fortunately(?) for them, the aforementioned rabbit enacts a rescue of the dog and agrees to free Max and Duke. At this point, we learn that the rabbit is actually the leader of a vast underground society of abandoned pets, reminiscent of a demented land of misfit toys. During a gang initiation ceremony, things go chaotically wrong, leading to Max and Duke fleeing for their lives. The remainder of the movie is one chase scene after another. Will the evil abandoned pets catch the boys before Max’s friends who are attempting a rescue can save them?

Objectionable Issues

This is a cartoon. I’m happy to report there is no nudity of sexual situations. There are also no curse words, although there are several times characters use insults such as stupid, idiot and dumb. Unfortunately, there are a lot of scenes of mayhem and destruction of property along with quite a lot of physical violence. One character also experiences a very violent death!

There is a very strange scene in the middle of the movie involving two characters and a sausage factory that I’m still not sure what I saw. It seemed almost like I was viewing a drug or alcohol induced trip which would be very out of place.

There is absolutely zero mention of God or anything religious in this movie.

Positive Lessons

Throughout the movie the theme of friendship and the importance of it are emphasized. This can be used to explain verses showing how God views us, such as John 15:15,

“I no longer call you servants, I call you my friends!”

The concept of accepting others just as they are is another powerful message in the movie. This can be used to illustrate Hebrews 13:2,

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers…”

And, of course, the concept of forgiveness is a major theme in this movie. This gives a great opportunity to explain Matthew 6:14,

“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you!”

While I have no problem recommending this movie, I would strongly suggest that the level of violence is too intense for younger children. I would not recommend it for children under 10 years old.

Violence: Heavy / Language: Mild—“holy schnitzel,” “heck,” “oh my gosh,” “shut up,” “Ah, pellet!” / Sex/Nudity: Minor

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive—My wife and I (early 30s) saw this movie in 3D and LOVED IT! Mind you, my wife doesn’t care much for cartoony/children's movies. Though these movies by Illumination tend to be for adults, too (some humor kids won't get). They made “Despicable Me,” “Minions” and so on. With this movie, though, it is definite;y more kid-friendly. This depends on what your views are, of course. They do say something like idiot. And the “gang” of abandoned animals likes to be mean. A snake is squashed by debris, you see his tail coming out from it. There’s really nothing else bad in at all for kids. Though I feel much of the comedy kids won't understand. They may get a bit of it. But if you’re an adult who’s had lots of pets growing up, you will get the comedy a lot more. Overall, I loved the story, the animation… everything about this movie. I may see it again.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Matt S, age 34
Positive—This was a pretty cute movie. I saw it with my 7 year old son… and he absolutely loved it! I wouldn’t rate it up there with Disney/Pixar, but it was definitely good. Yes, there is some school-yard-style humor/language, and there is some us-against-the-world cartoon violence (like Looney Tunes), but really—it’s just a cute movie. If you’re saving your money for a blockbuster, skip this one. Watch it at a dollar theater in a few weeks. If you’re looking for something fun to take the kids to this weekend, this is a good one.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Chrystal, age 39 (USA)
Positive—This may be the wildest animated movie I have ever seen. There is a lot of eyebrow-raising action to keep viewers in suspense. Nothing really profound popped out at me, but I did find it entertaining. However, I agree with the reviewer and others who have written in, that the movie is probably unsuitable for younger kids due to some darker elements involving the animal gang and violent dialog. This movie feels like an exercise in irony aimed at viewers pre-teen and up.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Samuel Chetty, age 24 (USA)
Neutral—The build up for this movie might have hurt it. There were several funny lines, but the movie itself is not funny. It is more of an adventure movie. I was not impressed with the characters or storyline, but it was clean and family-friendly. There is a lot of cartoon violence. One of the dogs learns that his owner is dead. The scene where the main characters almost drown is a little disturbing.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Jennifer, age 46 (USA)
Neutral—I was disappointed in this movie. It had moments of sweetness, but too much of it was drama. There is a very disturbed rabbit in the movie that was awful. I wanted to be uplifted, but it was just a heavy drama in cartoon form.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—C. Nelson, age 56 (USA)
Neutral—This film was not quite as enjoyable as I had anticipated, although it was still mildly entertaining. The premise of the “secret lives” of these New York City apartment-dwelling pets was clever, and there was much promise there, but I agree with another commenter that many of the funniest moments were already shown in the trailers. I found the first third of the movie to be humorous and relatable, but, as it continued on, it became more and more chaotic and outlandish, to the point of being too “zany” for my tastes. It was like one of those unbelievable action movies in which there is one chase/fight scene after another, each building in utter ridiculousness. That may appeal to some, but it was just too much for me, although my 10 year old daughter did enjoy it thoroughly. more »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Shawna, age 38 (USA)
Negative—I went with my 4 and 6 year old. I was disheartened to hear the word stupid and idiot a lot. Most disheartening was seeing all the talk about death, killing, murdering the “human”. Both groups of pets had scenes of bullying. Only a handful of cute scenes, all before Max gets his new brother. I would not recommend this movie for viewers under 10.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 2
—Gloria, age 38 (USA)
Negative—I didn’t enjoy it. The animation was good, and it started out okay. Most of the film was generally very loud, lots of yelling, nonstop over the top action… the effect to me was like spending two hours in a crowded McDonald’s playland. A few funny moments, but mostly not. Just irritatingly loud. Four or five instances of potty humor-literally. Although I enjoy well made animated films, my family and I would not recommend this one.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Tori, age 40+ (USA)
Negative—I was drawn to see this movie, as my kids (14 and 11) saw the previews together. The first 10 minutes were the best—funny and cute. The movie portrays most of the cats as negative, except for one. What really bothered me, as a Christian, was the joking of killing humans/pet owners. This is just a subtle way to devalue human beings—created in God’s image. This aspect portrays animals as superior to their owners. I won’t choke over the bones with this movie, but in a couple of days I will be discussing this issue with my kids.
—Teresa, age 47 (USA)
Negative—This movie was alarming enough to me, as a mom of four young kids, that I had to write about it AND shoot a short clip! NOT for anyone to view. The movie trailer tricked us. Won’t happen again! We got up and left when the rabbit asked Doug and Max to describe how they killed their owner, and several families left with us! You can click on the link below to get the full story! Keep up the excellent work!
—Tina Griffin, age 39 (USA)
Comments from young people
Positive—I enjoyed it. It was funny and cute. I was hoping they would portray all animals equally, instead they portrayed dogs to be better than any other pet. I would suggest watching this movie for all ages. Objectionable stuff: “Stupid” and “idiot” were used. Some points I really thought the animal was gonna say “Holy s***” because an sh-word was used after holy and was slowed down to make you think the word. There is also talk about killing humans.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Ali, age 18 (USA)

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