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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
In addition to social-emotional lessons regarding teamwork and empathy, kids may pick up a little bit about animal behavior/habits and New York City.
While there's a lot of anger/revenge going on, the messages about perseverance, teamwork, and empathy are ultimately positive (if not as clearly stated as in some kids' movies). To wit: never stop trying, and you can get a lot more done with the right team than you can by yourself. Be open to new friends and the experiences that life brings -- change can be hard but also rewarding (especially when it comes to new "siblings"). Loyalty and friendship are key to success. Think about others' feelings.
Positive Role Models
Max initially fears and dislikes Duke; he doesn't want to share Katie (or anything else) with his new "brother." But over the course of the movie, he comes to value Duke and learns that he can live with change. Duke starts out impulsive and pushy but also grows and changes to become more helpful and less defensive. Snowball is very angry; he hates humans because he was abandoned and dreams of revenge -- but he also steps up when circumstances demand. Gidget is loyal, determined, and fearless; she refuses to give up on Max, no matter what stands in her way. Tiberius manages to control his impulses to help his new friend.
Violence & Scariness
Frequent danger and peril. Chase scenes on foot and in vehicles (driven erratically and dangerously by animals); cars/buses crash into other vehicles, buildings, bridges, and more (sometimes catching on fire), and characters are pursued through dank, gloomy sewers. At one point it looks like a main character may not survive. Some scary/intimidating animals, including mangy alley cats, a huge viper, an alligator, a hungry hawk, and other predators; one unsympathetic character dies in an altercation. Human Animal Control officers go after several characters on multiple occasions and sometimes succeed in grabbing them and locking them up in cages. Some animal characters want all humans to die; a couple lie and say they've killed their owners (and go into detail about how the supposedly did it). Animals yell/growl/hiss/bark/yowl at and threaten each other and wreak havoc in human living spaces (messes, broken decor, etc.). Pratfalls and physical humor.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Gidget watches a telenovela-like TV show with some embraces between passionate characters. She also has a huge crush on Max and at one point pounces on and licks him.
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Insults/rude language includes "dumb," "dummies," "stupid" (several times), "weirdo," "shut it," "suckers," "idiots," "ugly," "crazy," "poo poo," "caca," "cry baby," "big fat brown dog," "bad dog," "got a screw loose," and "freak." Also one use of the swear stand-in "holy schnitzel." Lyrics for soundtrack songs include the word "hell."
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Products & Purchases
YouTube logo is shown when a cat video goes viral. Associated product tie-ins outside the movie -- toys, books, games, apparel, etc.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Max and Duke almost seem to get high on sausages during their interlude in the meat factory -- they share a hallucination-like vision of a magic land full of singing, dancing meat products.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Secret Life of Pets is a clever, engaging adventure about what our dogs, cats, birds, and other domesticated creatures get up to when we're not around. In the movie's case, it involves quite a bit of danger and peril -- which isn't what was showcased in the movie's promotional campaign. Main characters Max (voiced by Louis C.K.) and Duke (Eric Stonestreet) are frequently chased, sometimes on foot and sometimes in cars/vans/buses, which bang into things, crash, and catch on fire. They also dodge Animal Control officers; navigate dank, gloomy sewers; face off against an enormous viper and other predators/angry animals; and confront each other via barking, growling, yelling, and more. Animals discuss killing people (one anti-human animal character is impressed when others claim to have offed their former owners and detail how they did it). At one point it looks like a main character may not survive, and one bad guy dies in an altercation. There's some bodily function humor (a Chihuahua pees on the floor in excitement, dogs sniff each other's rear ends, etc.), a fair bit of insult language ("dumb," "stupid," "weirdo," "idiots," "cry baby," etc.), and one use of swear stand-in "holy schnitzel." But underlying all this are positive messages about friendship, teamwork, perseverance, and empathy -- as well as the futility of revenge and the importance of being open to new friends and the experiences that life brings. Max and Duke's relationship could particularly resonate with blended families and/or those dealing with sibling issues. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Funny and engaging, with an excellent voice cast, this animated animal adventure will entertain audiences of all ages, with perhaps an extra dollop of appeal for devoted pet owners. It's amusing to see what Max and his buddies get up to when their people are gone for the day, from watching telenovelas to raiding the fridge to rocking out to heavy metal music. And the plot, while not exactly unique (it's hard to miss the parallels to Toy Story, for instance), moves at a good clip, with enough twists and imaginative details to keep you fully engaged.
While meaningful messages aren't quite as front-and-center in The Secret Life of Pets as they were in, say Zootopia, the movie has clear themes of perseverance and teamwork. And Max and Duke's sibling-like relationship could particularly resonate with blended families or those dealing with rivalry/resentment issues. The characters have an appealing depth, too, aided by the talented actors providing their voices. Somewhere in the midst of Snowball's many motor-mouthed blasts, Hart conveys the bunny's underlying loneliness and sadness; this is a rabbit who truly thinks of his fellow cast-offs as family, not just minions. And Slate's Gidget proves that she's so much more than a pampered puffball; her loyalty to Max is unwavering, and she stretches far beyond her comfort zone to help him. It's easy to imagine a sequel focused on her getting the gang back together to help another one of their own; meanwhile, here's hoping they all have cozy laps to curl up on.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.