Secret Life of Pets is… you know

I didn’t pay as much attention as I should have to Secret Life of Pets because I found out about the Dallas shooting halfway through. However, the movie should have been engaging enough that I wasn’t idly checking my Facebook in the middle of it, so… you know. Photo courtesy Universal Pictures.

I mean… you know…

The Secret Life of Pets follows Max (Louis C.K.), a Jack Russell Terrier who is way too in love with his owner, Katie (Ellie Kemper). This becomes a huge problem when she brings home another rescue dog, Duke (Eric Stonestreet), who establishes himself as the alpha. Max tries to get Duke thrown out, and while out for a walk with an absent-minded professional walker, their fight brings them out of the dog park and they end up lost in the streets of New York City.

Secret Life of Pets is the movie Tyler Durden spliced porn into in Fight Club. At least that would have made it somewhat interesting.

This is the sixth feature by Illumination Entertainment, but just the third one that isn’t about the minions. To rectify this, there’s a short at the head of Secret Life of Pets about the minions struggling to get a blender, just like the shorts Pixar, and that’s a summary for the entire movie — it’s just like Pixar, except made by the guys who came up with and subsequently ruined minions. It doesn’t have the heart, it doesn’t have the animation quality and it doesn’t have the nods to parents that would make it evergreen. And it’s literally the exact same guys, too — director Chris Renaud, who helped voice the minions, has been involved in all but one of the studio’s movies to this point.

The sad thing is, these movies make money, and they’re the only ones that make money. Finding Dory is four weeks old and there have been six major releases either against it or in between it and Secret Life of Pets, and of those six only Central Intelligence and Independence Day: Resurgence have made more total than the $85 million this movie is expected to pull in just one weekend. Last summer was the same — it was packed with big-budget spectacles, but aside from Jurassic World’s out-of-nowhere success, the only things that really made money were Pixar’s Inside Out and Illumination’s Minions. 

Secret Life of Pets is harmless. It’s not bad enough to get mad about, but there’s really nothing good about it either. It feels like a wasted opportunity. At the studio level, Despicable Me was fantastic and fresh and clearly had a lot of effort put into it, but they’ve been skating on reputation ever since. Probably the worst thing about this movie is they got Louis C.K. to lead it. The man is a genius, and him doing anyone else’s work is a huge waste of everyone’s time. It what was clearly a sell-out move — man’s gotta eat, I guess — and a move that’s bad for both him and the movie, since he’s not going to be a draw for anyone under age 20, and he won’t add anything to the movie reading someone else’s lines. Maybe if they’d let him write it instead of some three-headed Illumination Entertainment in-house conglomerate (company men Brian Lynch, Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio) we could have had an actual quality movie, but not one for kids. On the flipside, they also brought in Kevin Hart and Albert Brooks, who add a lot to their characters just with vocals.

Leopold Knopp is a formerly professional film critic, licensed massage therapist and journalism student at the University of North Texas. Like Reel Entropy on Facebook, follow it on Twitter @reelentropy, and shoot questions to


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