"The Secret Life of Pets" is an animated buddy comedy adventure following the story of a New York City dog Max (Louis C.K.), who has it good with his human Katie (Ellie Kemper) until she brings home a big, shaggy rescue dog, Duke (Eric Stonestreet). Their jealous rivalry leads to a disastrous encounter that leaves them collar-less and in the company of a gang of stray animals, led by maniacal rabbit Snowball (Kevin Hart), who plan to take down humans.
Here are four issues to consider before taking your kids to see "The Secret Life of Pets."
1. How easily do your kids get scared?
For a PG-rated animated movie, there are several frightening sequences, close calls, and even a pretty gruesome animal death in "The Secret Life of Pets." Common Sense Media rates it as OK for kids 6 & up but cautions about the dangerous life-and-death situations the animals find themselves in time and time again. Roger Moore of Movie Nation even mentioned the frightening scenes in his review: "I'd be remiss if I didn't mention how violent this pre-tween farce is. Slapfights, brawls, violent death and near-death experiences abound."
2. Is your kid an animal person?
Young children who adore talking animal comedies ("Zootopia," "Finding Dory," "Finding Nemo," "Ice Age," etc.) will be the first ones to clamor for a family matinee outing, but they should be prepped for the fact that not all of the animals in this movie are good, sweet, or kind. The gang of "flushed pets" are, like the thrown-out toys in "Toy Story 3," bitter about not having human companions and seek vengeance against human kind for the injustices they've dealt with as human-less pets.
3. Who will enjoy the movie most?
"The Secret Life of Pets" is ideal for families with kids who are used to animated adventures, understand that most family-friendly films have happy endings and, of course, love anthropomorphized animals. Preschoolers may find themselves needing parental comfort during some of the chase scenes and the perilous moments when it seems like a few of the main characters are going to die. For that reason, it's best for elementary-schoolers and up, but sensitive older kids may also be occasionally (albeit temporarily) frightened.
4. What are critics saying about "The Secret Life of Pets"?
Ratings and reviews for "The Secret Life of Pets" are generally positive with a "fresh" Tomatometer score of 83 and a favorable 65 on Metacritic. The positive reviews rave: "The animation is wonderful, leading to plenty of colorful visual gags and over-the-top situations," says Britton Peele of The Dallas Morning News, even while acknowledging the "predictable" nature of the movie: "'Secret Life' anchors itself on an oh-so-familiar concept but sparkles most when imagining some of its crazier shenanigans." The critical reviews note the lack of emotional investment required: "'fun and games' is all you get, and the lack of meaningful connective tissue between the antics means the film begins to flag far earlier than it should," says Robbie Collin of The Telegraph.
"The Secret Life of Pets" hits theaters July 8th.