Movie Review – The Secret Life of Pets

The Secret Life of Pets

Starring: Louis C. K., Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart, Jenny Slate, Ellie Kemper, Albert Brooks, Lake Bell, Dana Carvey, Hannibal Buress, Bobby Moynihan, Chris Renaud, Steve Coogan, Michael Beattie, and more.

Directed by: Yarrow Cheney and Chris Renaud Written by: Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio, and Brian Lynch Art Direction by: Colin Stimpson Music by: Alexandre Desplat

Premise: Max loves his owner. She is everything to him. Then one day she brings home a huge dog named Duke. They don’t get along. Each tries to get rid of the other until they get in a situation they can’t escape, except by relying on one another. If they survive, maybe they will make it back home. (Rated PG)

Review:

1) Voice Acting – Total Thumbs Up: Illumination picked a great cast for the film. Louis C.K. does a great job as Max. His love for his master and resentment at the intruder Duke rings clear. Eric Stonestreet also does a good job as the new dog, Duke. His warring need to fit in and be top dog was well played.

Kevin Hart was a ton of fun as the rebellion leading bunny, Snowball. But it was Jenny Slate, Albert Brooks, and Lake Bell that brought the most fun to the table as Gidget, Tiberius, and Chloe. Gidget totally rocked! Dana Carvey was a hoot as Pops.

2) Artwork/Animation – Total Thumbs Up: Illumination did awesome work as usual. The Minions Mowing story short at the beginning will have Minion fans rolling. One bit that was too cute was how the lawn gnome in the short ends up also being used during the main feature.

They did several other cute segues to other Illumination films. The radio playing “Happy” which tied back to “Despicable Me 2”. The poster on the back of a city bus for their next film “Sing”. There are doubtless more of them to discover. 🙂

The film pays lovely homage to the city of New York. The lovely pan across Central Park and the amazing night views from Max’s apartment are but two of many amazing recreated sights.

Nice work on the textures as well. They dealt with fur, feathers, scales, long hair, short hair, and even hairless. And there were plenty of lovely visual gags. Several will catch you off guard and you will find yourself laughing out loud. As that’s normally rare for me, I was quite pleased. (The end of the viper sequence was a riot!)

3) Plot/Story – Total Thumbs Up: Despite all the jillion commercials we’ve been pounded with for six months or more – they didn’t give everything away. In fact, the story takes some unexpected sharp turns several times. And they didn’t spoil the best jokes or moments. So there was a lot to still be discovered. Which was great!

Max and Duke are rather nasty to each other when they’re first forced to be together. So much so you almost don’t want to root for either one. Eventually we get to know more about their true selves and we get on board. Much more surprising though was how the big heroes of the film aren’t Max or Duke. The biggest hero is actually Gidget! Once she realizes Max has disappeared she is the driving force to finding a way to go look for him. Sweet puppy love! 🙂

The Flushed Pets Rebels were a fun bunch. So were the feral cat gang. There were a lot of elements from the streets, older films/musicals, and pet behavior. It’s amazing how it all came together so well.

The Wiener King nirvana sequence will touch older audience members with weird psychedelic nostalgia. Even the song was perfect for the scene.

Conclusion: The Secret Life of Pets is quirky, fun, and full of surprises. Lots of great laugh out loud moments for the kids and adults. There’s a extra bit of fun during the end credits. 😛

Rating: 4 out of 5 (Hubby’s Rating: Worth Full Price to See Again.)

Movie Review – Finding Dori

Finding Dori

Starring: Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Ed O’Neill, Kaitlin Olson, Hayden Rolence, Ty Burrell, Diane Keaton, Eugene, Levy, Sloane Murray, Idris Elba, and more.

Directed by: Andrew Stanton and Angus MacLane Original Story by: Andrew Stanton Screenplay by: Andrew Stanton, Victoria Strouse, and Bob Peterson Cinematography by: Jeremy Lasky Music by: Thomas Newman

Premise: Dori has issues with her short term memory. A small accident causes her to remember things she’d forgotten from her childhood – like her parents. For a brief moment, she actually remembers where she came from. And Nemo keeps the name for her. Dori helped Marlin find his son when he was lost. Now Marlin and Nemo will help Dori to find her forgotten family. (Rated PG)

Review:

1) Voice Acting – Total Thumbs Up: Though it’s been 13 years since “Finding Nemo” hit the theaters, you wouldn’t know it from watching the sequel. Ellen DeGeneres and Albert Brooks reprise their roles as Dori and Marlin as if they’d never been away. Some of the characters from the first film make an appearance, but we’re also introduced to a slew of new and memorable characters. Ed O’Neill was a ton of fun as the octopus named Hank. The kids will get a blast from his awesome chameleon powers. 🙂 (They can also try to spot him during the first part of the end credits!)

2) Artwork/Animation – Total Thumbs Up: “Piper” is the name of the short film that plays before the main feature of “Finding Dori”. It is beyond adorable! And the animation for it was fantastic. The water, the bubbles, the sand and more were super detailed – the beach looked real. The birds, too. And Piper was so cute!

Here’s a taste!

“Finding Dori” itself also had superb animation. Some lovely transitions between the ocean and surface worlds. Some ‘jaw-dropping’ moments as well. The art was phenomenal in several places. Did some fabulous work with textures, too. From Hank’s pitted, semi-slimy skin to the hard tortoises shells, you could visually feel the textures. Great work!

The end credits (stay all the way to the end!) have the algae filled water in the middle section and it is populated with all manner of species of fish who swim lazily by as the names roll past. The variety of fish represented was amazing. It was like going to the aquarium without ever leaving your seat. Kudos guys!

And Becky was one weird, but fun bird. lol. (So was the third seal – even with those creepy, shifty eyes of his. Heh heh.)

3) Plot/Story – Total Thumbs Up: When I heard they were doing a sequel to “Finding Nemo” and that it would center around Dori, I had my doubts as to what we would get. But my worry, much like Marlin’s, was unnecessary. By introducing flashes of Dori’s returning memories as events moved along, they got the audience invested in the quest and finding more about Dori. And we got a chance to see a side of Dori we’d not seen before. (She was also the cutest baby fish EVER!)

As in the original, the film dives to different depths to explore themes and emotions during the story. There were some quite poignant moments which get revealed during the tale without being heavy handed. It also gave us a true taste of what it would feel like to have Dori’s condition, and how strong and determined she truly is.

A range of themes are woven through the film as well. The meaning of family, of belonging, perseverance, trust, friendship, and more.

There are also all sorts of gags through the movie. Watching Hank moving through the MLI was a ton of fun. They even build on a few of the jokes in tiny bits – stay till the end of the credits for the final one. 🙂

Conclusion: “Finding Dori” is a great sequel to “Finding Nemo”. The animation is fabulous and there are lots of fun characters to fall in love with. You’ll probably also find yourself thinking: “What would Dori do?” 🙂

Rating: 4 out of 5 (Hubby’s Rating: Worth Full Price of Admission)