10 Things Parents Should Know About ‘The Secret Life of Pets’

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Max and Duke, 'The Secret Life of Pets'
Max and Duke, ‘The Secret Life of Pets’

An exciting new story opening July 8 from the minds behind Despicable Me, The Secret Life of Pets stars voice actors who will appeal to most parents. A defiantly funny heart-warmer, the movie is comfortable staying in that zone without delving into the sadder and darker parts of life.

  1. What’s it about?
    Max’s long-time owner suddenly brings home a new pet, causing an extreme case of rivalry between the two dogs. In their attempts to take each other down they end up losing their collars as the dog catcher is making his rounds. They make enemies with the Flushed Pets, a large group of vigilante former pets who are set against the human world for the shoddy treatment they’ve received. When Max doesn’t come back from the dog park his friends set out to save them.
  2. Will I enjoy it?
    The movie was funny but also thought-provoking. Trying to recognize the various voices was a huge part of the entertainment.
  3. Will my kids enjoy it?
    We went with four kids aged 1—9 who absolutely ate it up. But if you have kids who are at all sensitive, the Minions short before the movie and a few scenes within the movie (discussed below) could bother them.
  4. Who’s in it?
    The Secret Life of Pets stars Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, and Kevin Hart, all debuting in their first animated feature film. Jenny Slate, Lake Bell, Ellie Kemper, Dana Carvey, Hannibal Buress, Bobby Moynihan, Steve Coogan, and Albert Brooks round out the very talented cast.
  5. What’s it rated? Why?
    PG – and it’s deserved. There are some scenes in the film that will bother more sensitive kids. One scene involves a small dog on a roof meeting a bird of prey. There is a death that struck me as somewhat gruesome and too obvious to play off to a child, and immediately after that Max’s friends have to escape in a scene that had even adults in the audience feeling the tension. The one scene where I expected them to layer on the pathos was kept brief and light, as befits a children’s movie.
  6. When’s a good time to go to the bathroom?
    The movie runs an hour and a half, so there shouldn’t be a need to leave. If your kid is not particularly sensitive, I’d walk out during the rooftop scene. If you need to take your kid out to avoid the most violent scene, you want to walk out when Max and Duke get to Snowball’s underground lair.
  7. Is there anything during or after the credits?
    Yes, a cute bit during credits and one line post-credits. I wouldn’t necessarily stay for it, but my kids like to stay to the end anyhow and were happy they did.
  8. Is it worth seeing in 3D?
    I’m probably not the best to answer this question; I largely don’t see the point of 3D. There are a few scenes that would be fun for those who really enjoy it: car chases, animals being swung around, and water splashing on a boat ride come to mind.
  9. Any fun tie-ins?
    The studio put together a PetMOJI app, currently only available on iOS.
  10. What did the talent have to say about the movie?
    Eric Stonestreet, the voice of Duke, had a hard timing picking what he liked best about the process:

    Well, recording it, I’m sort of like a kid, I think, at Disneyland because every time they bring something in I’m like, “That’s my favorite scene. No this is my favorite scene. Oh, my gosh, this is so fun. Now, that’s so fun.” So, I didn’t know what I was going to like the most. I love, obviously, the sausage factory. I mean, I knew from the beginning that that was going to be good. And that was really fun to play with because, like I said, I try to give so many variations of lines and sort of tone, so that they can mash it up–and definitely played with that–they have really drunk, stoned versions of Duke after sausages.

    Lake Bell cited the message of community and friendship in the movie:

    …I think that in New York, I think it’s very like akin to kind of how New York works. It’s like I grew up in the city, and, apartment buildings are funny. You know, it’s like you live next to complete strangers, and you’re right on top of them. And you see them every day in your apartment, you know, whether it’s in your elevator or down at the laundry, or wherever it is. We live in these compact spaces. And I think the pets kind of take on that thematic, which is like it’s who you live with, and this is who you got, so you better either make a choice to ice your neighbor, or you can be like, “Hi, how are you? Good to see you again,” you know. And you look out for each other. It’s your mini community. In suburban streets maybe we have like your street. But, in New York we have our floor. I love the kind of ragtag group of animals that sort of come together as a little team. I’m a sucker for that stuff.

    Kevin Hart discussed the opportunity to play a villain while giving the character depth:

    And being that Snowball was hurt is one thing, but then I made him insecure. You notice he’s very insecure. You know, he gives out these orders, but then he questions the orders that he gave out, you know. “Everybody listen. Raise your hand unless you’re tired. Unless your arm is tired. Put your arm down. You don’t have to raise your hand.” And it’s funny. You laugh at it, but it shows you that he’s not really the guy that he’s being. This is a manufactured version of himself, which justifies when he gets the hug at the end–he melts.