Tag Archives: Minions

Dogs and Cats, Living Together… Mild Hysteria

The Secret Life of Pets

by Matt Weiner

For a madcap family movie, The Secret Life of Pets raises some deeply disturbing questions. How much libido could fuel a romantic subplot when the lovers have been neutered? Why does “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” cue up during a drive into Manhattan? And exactly where is the autonomic system located on a sausage?

Alas, The Secret Life of Pets, directed by Chris Renaud and Yarrow Cheney (Despicable Me franchise veterans), answers none of these questions. Instead, the movie offers up a diverting animated comedy with plenty of action but little cohesion or earned emotion to back it up.

The plot, as much as it exists other than to fling a Bronx Zoo’s worth of animals across New York City set pieces, hints at a Toy Story-light conflict between earnest terrier Max (Louis C.K.) and the newly adopted Duke (Eric Stonestreet), a gruff Newfoundland with a sad past.

It’s fitting that Duke, a shaggy dog, gets the action going. Once he and Max find themselves captured by the only two animal control officers in a city of 8 million, the sole remaining tension is whether Max and Duke will learn to get along before or after a successful rescue effort, as led by Gidget the tougher-than-she-looks Pomeranian (Jenny Slate) and Chloe, a scene-stealing cat (Lake Bell).

The Secret Life of Pets features inspired physical comedy, in a Buster-Keaton-meets-future-theme-park-ride kind of way that turned the Minions into cash cows. But it’s Pixar without the pathos: the movie never misses a chance to ignore any avenue for genuine emotion, whether it’s Duke learning what happened to his former owner or the streetwise villain Snowball (Kevin Hart, playing to the back row) hinting at the dark desires that animals really harbor toward their fickle owners.

It’s the single-note drone of the movie’s action that makes the glimpses of what might have been all the more remarkable. An extended fantasy sequence in a Brooklyn sausage factory takes place for no reason other than setting up a song-and-dance number that’s a drugged-out tribute to edible body horror, complete with dancing hot dogs made rapturous by their imminent consumption. None of this advances the plot in any way, but it’s a rare delight in a movie mostly content to coast.

In the end, predators and prey make amends, Max and Duke are ready for a sequel and a reliable supporting cast have made their case for a spinoff. Not bad for a day’s work in New York. But the real secret is that our pets are very much like their human counterparts: they share our likes and dislikes, our strengths and our flaws, and — most of all — our willingness to settle for just good enough.





Villain Wanted


by George Wolf

We can all agree the minions were the best thing about the Despicable Me films, right? The little yellow orbs brought an inspired zaniness that elevated the otherwise average outings, becoming a big hit with both kids and parents in the process.

So why wouldn’t Minions, a prequel of their very own, be a thoroughly delightful installment that builds on all that promise?


Mainly, it just doesn’t feel worthy of the opportunity. A new story of how the minions hooked up with Gru presents deliciously wide open possibilities, but the ones the film explores land more like an early draft that needs re-tooling.

Geoffrey Rush starts things off well, narrating a look at the minions through history and the search to fulfill their destiny: serving the most nefarious villains they can find.

Eventually, the tale settles in 1968, when a minion search team (Bob, Stuart, Kevin) hitches a ride from a bank robbing family (led by Michael Keaton and Alison Janney) to the big villainy convention in Orlando. Once there, the 3 impress the infamous Scarlett Overkill (Sandra Bullock) enough to become part of her devious plan to steal the Queen of England’s crown.

The Queen of England? Yeah, it’s a strange adventure that’s a bit skimpy on the charm.

With their unique build and gibberish language, the minions are sight gags just waiting to happen, and their screen time in the DM films took fine advantage. Minions just doesn’t, leaving you scanning the background quite often, searching in vain for some subtle silliness to pump up the fun. This film is more interested in spoofing music from the era (especially during the post credits scene), which just isn’t a viable trade off.

Bullock’s vocal work is also a letdown, again proving that successful voice acting is a distinct talent. Jon Hamm has that talent, and his enjoyable turn as Scarlett’s husband Herb only reinforces the memorable edges missing in Bullock’s performance.

Still, kids will love Minions, because the minions are easy to love. But like the Penguins of Madagascar, maybe they weren’t quite ready for a solo album.