Parental Guidance

How Family-Friendly is The Secret Life of Pets?

by | July 8, 2016 | Comments

Just because a film is animated, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s completely suitable for all ages. This week, Christy offers the lowdown on Illumination’s The Secret Life of Pets, which is probably fine for everyone. Read on for the details on that one, as well as an Oscar-nominated animation from Brazil on DVD.



The Secret Life of Pets (2016) 72%

Rating: PG, for action and some rude humor.

What do your pets do all day while you’re away? That’s the premise of this animated comedy from the folks who brought you the Despicable Me movies and Minions. It’s essentially the same idea behind Toy Story, but without the emotional complexity; Pets is basically about friendship, and it’s more interested in lively, colorful antics. Max (voiced by Louis C.K.), a loyal Jack Russell terrier enjoying a comfy life with his owner, Katie (Ellie Kemper), ends up with an unwelcome roommate when Katie brings home a big, shaggy stray from the pound named Duke (Eric Stonestreet). Max and Duke become separated from their dog-walking group at the park and go on an adventure through the streets, alleys and sewers of Manhattan and Brooklyn. Along the way, they’re pursued by mean dogcatchers (who are slapsticky and silly) and they reluctantly team up with an underground group of wild animals led by a diabolical bunny named Snowball (Kevin Hart). Max and Duke are frequently in danger and nearly drown at one point, and there are a few references to death of both the animal and human kind. There are the obligatory bits about butt-sniffing and nervous peeing. And a perky Pomeranian named Gidget (Jenny Slate) unleashes martial-arts fury on a bunch of creatures to protect her beloved Max, but it’s played for laughs. This movie is high-energy and harmless and, for the most part, fine for the whole family.



Boy and the World (O Menino e o Mundo) (2015) 93%

Rating: PG, for thematic material and images.

Viewers of all ages will be fine watching this beautiful, strange and wondrous animated film from Brazilian writer-director Ale Abreu. It tells the story of a boy who dares to wander from his country home to the big city in search of his father, who has traveled there seeking work. As he ventures farther from his family’s farm and closer to the teeming metropolitan center, the boy encounters overworked field hands, cramped favelas, miserable commuters and the general destruction industrialization can cause. As a cautionary tale, Boy and the World isn’t saying much that’s new (and isn’t saying it in a way that’s terribly subtle). But as an artistic exercise, the film is dazzling, full of vibrant hues and rich textures. It looks like a slightly more sophisticated version of children’s color-pencil drawings come to life, and its aesthetic is constantly evolving and surprising. I watched the film with my 6-year-old son, who asked lots of questions because there’s no dialogue and many of the characters essentially look the same. But he also loved the film’s colorful, playful vibe and the infectious, samba-infused score.

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