Earlier this year, I spent an entire weekend watching my dog through an app on my phone. (She's old.) She spent most of the time barking at the door, moving from her bed to the couch, and greeting the person who would periodically check on her. In other words, the secret life of pets is sort of boring. However, The Secret Life of Pets is not.
The latest from Illumination Entertainment ditches the Minions for another crop of fuzzy characters. It revolves around Max (voices by Louis C.K.), a Jack Russell Terrier who has his world turned upside-down -- or at least his bed turned upside-down -- when his owner (Ellie Kemper) brings home a stray named Duke (Eric Stonestreet). The two competing pups end up lost, in the sewers, hunted by other strays, and on an adventure that goes way beyond sampling the water in the toilet.
The Secret Life of Pets does tug at the heartstrings and even manages to get really dark on occasion. However, the short runtime (87 minutes) keeps things moving and so do the famous voices, which fit each character to a tee. (That lot also includes Jenny Slate, Kevin Hart, Albert Brooks, Lake Bell, and Dana Carvey.) It's not going to be remembered as one of the year's best films or possibly even one of the year's best animated films. That said, it's a lot more interesting than the actual life of most pets, with a cuddly bunch of characters, plenty of action, and a good amount of funny moments.
The Secret Life of Pets is cuddly, colorful, and sparkles overall on Blu-ray. The 1.85:1 image is incredibly sharp, putting all of the fur, feathers, and fins on display. You can almost feel those cold, wet noses and the doggie drool. It's just a beautifully detailed image without a speck of softness. The color is just as impressive, with bursts of bright, cheery images in every scene, from the park to Katie's apartment to even the sewer system. The reds are a particular standout, on both Katie's couch and her bright pants. It's just a really fun, vibrant image that boosts the entire viewing experience.
Speaking of boosting the experience, Universal has given The Secret Life of Pets a Dolby Atmos track. Despite all of the on-screen insanity, it's not as immersive as you would think. Instead, it reserves those height channels for echos, squirrels, crazed kitties, rushing water, and other aerial antics. This is a good thing. If the track was constantly blasting you in the face with sound every second of the movie, things could get a little claustrophobic. It uses those Atmos goodies for a realistic edge. The rest is good too, with clear dialogue and atmospheric effects sprinkled throughout the surrounds.
On paper, The Secret Life of Pets seems to have a lot of extras included. The main crop is a total of 12 shorts, which includes the trailer for the next Illumination film, Sing. However, that number doesn't include the new set of "Mini-Movies," which I'll get to in a second. The overall collection is pretty short, with the entire lot running under 50 minutes total. That runtime covers the voice actors, the people who made the movie, and a lot about animals.
The main attraction here is the new set of "Mini-Movies," which fall under a separate menu on the disc. There are three 4-minute cartoons, with "Norman TV" and "Weenie" expanding on characters featured in the film. The last one is "Mower Minions," the short that ran ahead of The Secret Life of Pets in theaters. Wrapping up the collection is the 7-minute "Making of the Mini-Movies," with animators and other Illumination people talking about what goes into making each short film.
It's not groundbreaking like something you'd expect from Pixar or even as hilarious as some of the other Illumination efforts (most notably Despicable Me), but The Secret Life of Pets is still a lot of fun for all ages. The story is kept to a palatable 87 minutes, the voices are perfect, and there are plenty of funny moments. It helps that this is one gorgeous Blu-ray, with bonus points for the Dolby Atmos track. Universal deserves a little treat for that.
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