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Review: ‘The Secret Life of Pets’ Has More Bark Than Bite

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The Secret Life of Pets MovieSpoon.com

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]here are animated movies that have stories of real character and those that just want to make jokes. Illumination Entertainment, best known for their success of Despicable Me and Minions and now The Secret Life of Pets, seems to only be interested in jokes.

The Secret Life of Pets MovieSpoon.com

One dog finds a new use for a mixer.

At some point in the studio, the animators started drawing up some gags based on pets. They kept going with comical ideas about what pets might do when we’re not looking – from waiting patiently at the door to using appliances as massage instruments. These visual gags continued to mount until the studio decided they should make a movie out of this concept. They clearly didn’t have a story, but such trivial aspects do not matter to a studio that specializes in cute and crazy. Just slap on a standard adventure across the city, add some celebrity voice talents and production can proceed with animating dogs, cats, birds and bunnies doing wild comedy.

Max (Louis C.K.), a simplistic little terrier, has his happy life with his young hipster owner threatened by an addition to his Manhattan apartment. His master, Katie (Ellie Kemper), brings home a large and dominant Newfoundland by the name of Duke (Eric Stonestreet). The high-spirited Duke decides not to share, as the living space appears to not be big enough for the two of them.

The Secret Life of Pets MovieSpoon.com

The new dog Duke makes a grand entrance.

They fight and squabble until they find themselves lost on the streets of New York City where they’ll have to cooperate to make it back home. Their buddy adventure is typical enough that even the movie feels the need to glaze over much of their predictable arc. Don’t expect to care about this duo the same way you did with Woody and Buzz Lightyear or Marlon and Dory; the movie won’t let you get that involved.

The second and far more interesting plot in The Secret Life of Pets involves Max’s best friend and love interest, a Pomeranian by the name of Gidget (Jenny Slate), staging a search and rescue. On her quest, she assembles a host of interesting characters including a lonely hawk (Albert Brooks), a reluctant cat (Lake Bell) and an old basset hound (Dana Carvey) that’s been around the block enough times to know how to navigate a construction site.

Gidget’s adventure is just as predictable, but has a much different drive and far better gags. Her stumbling into a party of dogs sniffing butts in a circle and filming pet-related accidents for viral videos easily trumps Max and Duke having a non sequitur of a sausage factory raid (complete with a dream sequence of dancing meat that I’m sure will come back to haunt me when viewing Sausage Party).

Stealing the show in The Secret Life of Pets is the antagonist bunny Snowball (Kevin Hart), the leader of an underground gang devoted to exterminating pet owners. That may sound as if they’re a dangerous group, but, in the realm of Illumination Entertainment, they’re all talk. In this sense, Kevin Hart is perfectly cast as an insane rabbit that runs his mouth about killing humans. Snowball and his band of evil pets only exist for more jokes and a light amount of danger. It’s no surprise or spoiler to reveal that everything will work out for this cute little bunny gone bad. We couldn’t have anything bad happen to such a cuddly figure.

The Secret Life of Pets MovieSpoon.com

Kevin Hart is feisty as the bunny Snowball in ‘The Secret Life of Pets.’

For kids and pet owners, the gags and characters are cute and clever. The first ten minutes of showcasing the behavior of pets when humans head off to work could have made for the perfect short film. It’s simple, sweet, amusing and is thankfully utilized as a satisfying bookend to the picture. It’s not until the movie starts looking for a standard lost-in-the-city story that the movie starts to lose its way. There should be some chemistry and comradery to the adventures of Max and Duke, but it seems to be sideswiped at every turn for more examinations of pet behavior.

There’s a unique moment when Duke finds the house of his old master and is dismayed to discover that he died years ago. There should be some real emotion here, but we’re never given enough time to develop these characters to feel much of anything. The movie seems to rely on them just being cute pets as their only development, never spending too much time on any one moment that isn’t silly or frenetic.

Read more to check out the trailer for The Secret Life of Pets:

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Izzy

Movie Magic: The De-Aging Technique of The Irishman

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Robert DeNiro de-agedHave you read Izzy yet? If so, you know that Izzy makes the apples that give the Gods their youth and immortality. It also seems Robert De Niro discovered one of Izzy’s apples too… In Martin Scorsese’s upcoming biographical film, he stars as Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, a labor union leader and alleged hitman for the Bufalino crime family. The trailer for the movie, which will premieres NEXT WEEK (!), also features a “de-aged” De Niro. “We’re so used to watching them as the older faces,” Scorsese said in an interview on the A24 podcast. “Does it change the eyes at all? …If that’s the case, what was in the eyes that I liked? Was it intensity? Was it gravitas? Was it threat?…How do we get that? I don’t know.” Some might consider this magic and I for one can’t wait to see the impact of Izzy’s apples on screen for myself. ????

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“Captain Marvel” Retains Top Slot at the Box Office

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It’s no surprise that in its second weekend, the first Marvel Cinematic Universe of 2019 is still riding high. Captain Marvel, the latest in the MCU with Brie Larson starring as the lead, generated another $69 million over the weekend, placing its domestic total at $266 million. Tallying up the international box office, the film’s global total to date is $760 million. Despite the online controversy, the film is looking to be another strong box office smash for Disney and Marvel.

As for the premieres for the weekend, and there were plenty, they were all over the map. Just below Captain Marvel was the animated adventure Wonder Park, bringing in $16 million, another film with controversy when the director’s name was removed from the picture after sexual harassment charges. Five Feet Apart, the dying teen drama about a romance amid cystic fibrosis, only came in at #3 with a weekend gross of $13 million. And debuting the lowest in the top 10 for debuts was Captive State, a sci-fi dystopian tale, only making $3 million. The film debuted so low the little film No Manches Frida 2 was able to sneak about it at #6 with a gross of $3.8 million.

Drops were fairly low all around for the returning films, mostly because Captain Marvel was dominating the previous weekend. The only milestone worth noting is that The LEGO Movie 2, after six weeks at the box office, finally cracked $100 million. And the sun is now setting on Green Book’s post-Oscar run by coming in at #10 for the final weekend of its top 10 run over the past few weeks.

View the full top ten weekend box office results below:

Captain Marvel ($69,318,000)

Wonder Park ($16,000,000)

Five Feet Apart ($13,150,000)

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($9,345,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($8,085,000)

No Manches Frida 2 ($3,894,000)

Captive State ($3,163,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($2,135,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($1,900,000)

Green Book ($1,277,000)

Next weekend, Captain Marvel may very well have some competition when Jordan Peele’s new horror film Us hits over 3,600 theaters.

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“Dragon” Continues To Soar, “Funeral” Close Behind, “Green Book” Back

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With little competition for the weekend, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, the third in the animated fantasy saga, was able to secure the box office once more. In its second weekend, the animated epic made $30 million to push its domestic total to $97 million. So far the film has done about the same as the previous film and is on track to stay in the top 10 for a few more weeks in March.

Debuts this weekend were small with one big exception. Tyler Perry’s latest Madea film, A Madea Family Funeral, naturally made a relatively big splash with its dedicated audience. Starting at #2, the film made $27 million for its first weekend. No word on the budget yet but it’s most likely on a budget as most Tyler Perry productions are, so it’s safe to call this a success, especially for debuting with a box office so close to Dragon.

The rest of the premieres were not as strong at all. Greta, the new thriller starring Chloe Moretz, debuted all the way down at #8 with $4.5 million box office. To be fair, however, the film was in a constant battle for its spot as three other films also reported earnings around $4 million for the weekend. Of note, Green Book, fresh off winning the Academy Award for Best Picture one weekend ago, splashed back into more theaters to arise even higher in the top 10 with its domestic total now sitting at $73 million. Don’t count on it remaining there long as bigger blockbusters will be swooping as we plow through the last remnants of winter movies.

Check out the full listing of the top 10 box office weekend results below:

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($30,046,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($27,050,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($7,000,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($6,615,000)

Green Book ($4,711,000)

Fighting With My Family ($4,691,284)

Isn’t it Romantic ($4,645,000)

Greta ($4,585,000)

What Men Want ($2,700,000)

Happy Death Day 2U ($2,516,000)

Next weekend is once again all about Marvel as their latest superhero solo film, Captain Marvel, will be appearing in 4,100 theaters.

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