I’d like to preface this by saying its my first time doing this, as well as my first on Observation Deck. You can thank fellow user EL34 for encouraging me to do this.
Well, Was it Good?
The simple answer is yes. It was not Pixar-level good (and its story takes an unhealthy amount of beats from one particular Pixar movie, which I’ll go into details in the Spoiler section) but it was an entertaining romp nonetheless. It was great, say, compared to other films in DreamWorks Illumination’s filmography. It wasn’t as good as How to Train Your Dragon 2, but it wasn’t as terrible as Minions. Some Spoilers May follow. Proceed at own risk.
What’s the Plot?
A Jack Russell Terrier named Max (Louis C.K.) has problems with the new dog that his owner Katie (Ellie Kemper) gets, a Newfoundland named Duke (Eric Stonestreet). They fight, eventually getting lost. They meet a bunch of ex-pets abandoned by their owners, the leader is rabbit named Snowball (Kevin Hart) who has a “kill all humans” mentality. Hijinks ensue, meanwhile Max’s neighbor, a Pomeranian named Gidget (Jenny Slate) gathers up the rest of his friends, which includes Chloe the Cat (Lake Bell), Mel the Pug (Bobby Moynihan), Buddy the Dachsund (Hannibal Buress), Sweet Pea the Parakeet (Tara Strong) go on a quest to find them. They meet new friends, like Tiberius (Albert Brooks) a bizzare Red Tailed Hawk, and Pops the Basset Hound (Dana Carvey). Hijinks ensue. If this sounds like the plot to Toy Story with dogs, it totally is. What makes the movie worth it are the deviations.
What Did I like?
I liked a lot of the gags and humor. It was not nearly as pop culture overdosed as one might expect, and was actually very physical comedy heavy. Some of them even reminded me of classic Looney Tunes shorts. There was one moment in particular involving Chloe the Cat that felt like a classic bit of slapstick. It involved cheese puffs, cupcakes, and other snacks. I don’t want to spoil it. The slapstick combined with the as George Carlin put it, “I meant to do that!” mentality of cats was what made it fantastic. The best stuff is when it shows what the pets get up to when the owners are away. this includes the gifs above, and whole party thrown by Pops (where the cat scene takes place, I might add) is full of this. Also, the alley cats scene. It ends up a bit crazy. It’s where that shot of Max flying in the trailer comes from. Also, the two main dogs having a sausage filled hallucination. It was funny but bizzare as heck.
As far as the characters go, the ones that got the most Chuckles out of me were Snowball, Chloe, and Gidget. Kevin Hart is great as the ‘killer’ bunny rabbit, and he has some great lines. Chloe ha the whole cat thing down perfectly, and Lake Bell (not very familiar with her work) was fantastic. Gidget deserves special mention though. She leads the search to find Max even though he barely knows she exists (which numerous character point out to her) but she is a girl on a mission. She manages to enlist Tiberius the Hawk through kindness and persistence, while also being scary to anyone who gets in her way. You know what I mean if you’ve seen the slap scene in the previews. I don’t want to spoil the awesome things she pulls off in the climax.
Yeah, that puffball in the center is great.
The things I didn’t like.
The plot, for starters. I didn’t hate it, it was just so generic compared to the rest of the movie. It steals its main story beats from Toy Story, but as Midnight Screenings Brad Jones points out, this time both of them are jerks. After Max manages to anger Duke over bed rights, he decides to be a jerk back to him. This is mildly humorous, and its escalation is what gets them lost, but it should have been handled better. Instead of an evil human like Sid, there are Snowball the bunny’s abandoned pets. They take the antagonist role, but aren’t really evil. Same with the dogcatchers, who are really just a necessary evil. The most outright ‘evil’ thing in the movie are a bunch of alley cats whose leader is voiced by Steve Coogan. Bizzarely enough, the climax of the movie resembles (in part at least) the one in Finding Dory. I’m gonna chalk that up to coincidence.
The Short Way of Putting it:
The plot is boring, but the humor saves it. Go see it for laughs, but not for substance. If you need to kill a an hour or two with kids and have seen Finding Dory, go to this.