2016.100: The Secret Life of Pets
There’s maybe too many of these cgi-animated films out there now. Okay- there simply ARE too many of them. Like with superhero films, it seems mimicry is the sincerest form of flattery, because its getting to the point at which they all start to look the same or follow a familiar formula. There’s certainly reminders of earlier (and better) films like Bolt here, or so many Pixar films like the Toy Story series. Its fun. Its even funny. But I wouldn’t dream of describing any of this as original or ground-breaking. Its okay, but it always feels rather generic.
It does, however, raise an issue that is starting to arise with these films, and some may well argue that its been here a long time already. It took them a few films to get there, but once Pixar established the formula for its family-comedy animated films with the ‘buddy-quest picture’ template, and continued to pursue it in successive films, it set a precedent and practically wrote a ‘how-to’ guidebook that so many studios have followed since. Unfortunately its so routine that the scripts for these films almost seem to have been all written by the same team, and viewers can predict every turn, to the degree that no matter the finesse in the animation or art design, the mold being used desperately needs to be broken. I guess Hollywood would argue, if it aint broke, why fix it, as the box-office returns on these films appears to be pretty reliable.
Its getting to the point though where even the character designs and mannerisms/animation is all starting to look the same. They almost look interchangeable between films, and the voice-work sounds pretty familiar too. At least in the old days you could tell a Disney film from any other animated film, and a Pixar film too, but the homogeneity of the cgi-animation behind these films is all making it more a general animated landscape of, well, conformity and over-familiarity.
Sadly, its rather like so many superhero films, in just the same way that Marvel have settled upon such a winning formula for making their films that DC have felt the need to adopt it with their own (and consequently impacted their BvS film, for example, by awkwardly putting in unnecessary seeds for later DC films in just the same way as Marvel has seeded their various superhero franchises in individual films).
The Secret Life of Pets isn’t a bad film. In fact it was something of a hit in my household, with my in-laws citing it as the best film they have seen over the Holidays. So it’s clearly doing something right. I’m perhaps being unfair to it, complaining it isn’t anything particularly new or demanding anything of its audience. It simply is what it it is. But there are too many films like this before it and no doubt many like it due in the future, and eventually, over-familiarity breeds contempt. It’d be a shame if it was a Pixar film that caught a hit over it, or maybe that would be poetic justice?