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Western Animation / The Secret Life of Pets

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The Secret Life of Pets is a CGI animated film from Illumination Entertainment. True to its name, it follows what various household pets do when their owners aren't around. It was released on July 8, 2016.

Centered on a Manhattan apartment building, the film is focused around a terrier named Max (voiced by Louis C.K.), whose life as an only pet is turned upside down when his owner, Katie (Ellie Kemper), brings home a huge, sloppy mongrel named Duke (Eric Stonestreet). The two dogs begin a power struggle for Alpha dog as a result. But they have to put their quarrel aside when they get lost in the big city, all while being hunted by an adorable and completely insane white bunny named Snowball (Kevin Hart) who leads an army of abandoned pets determined to take revenge on human-kind. Meanwhile, Gidget (Jenny Slate), a white Pomeranian—who has a crush on Max— discovers that he's missing and enlists a search party—consisting of sassy and obese tabby cat Chloe (Lake Bell), hyperactive pug Mel (Bobby Moynihan), laid-back dachshund Buddy (Hannibal Buress), elderly paralyzed basset hound Pops (Dana Carvey), a curmudgeonly red-tailed hawk named Tiberius (Albert Brooks), cheeky guinea pig Norman (Chris Renaud) and cute little budgie Sweetpea (Tara Strong)—to find and rescue Max before their owners return home.

Previews: Teaser, Trailer 1, Trailer 2, Trailer 3, Snowball Trailer.

A sequel The Secret Life of Pets 2 was released on June 7, 2019. A theme park ride based on the film, The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash, opened in 2021 at Universal Studios Hollywood.

The Secret Life of Pets provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Gidget is shown as the best fighter in the movie, as she defeats all of Snowball's minions. Also keep in mind that when she first tries to stand up to them in the sewers it doesn't work but later she utterly kicks their butts.
  • Actor Allusion: Gidget wins over Tiberius by promising to be his best friend, to which he reacts with delight. In Finding Nemo, Marlin (voiced by Albert Brooks, who also voiced Tiberius) has a line wherein he declares his intent to be a best friend toward a little light that turns out to be the lure of a predatory Anglerfish.
  • Affably Evil: Snowball switches it off and on at random, probably as a side effect of being Ax-Crazy. But beware: the nicer he seems at the moment, the worse things are about to get. Except for when he teams up with Max and saves him and Duke from drowning in the East River.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: Justified since Norman is a guinea pig and so quite small enough to fit inside one. Plus he's not using it to go anywhere, he's just hopelessly lost.
  • All There in the Manual: If you look closely at the Animal Control officers' name tags, you'll learn that their names are J. Menard (the skinny redhead officer with the mustache) and D. Fourrage (the fat black-haired officer with the goatee). note 
  • All There in the Script: The cat who tells Duke about his previous owner's death is named Reginald, which is shown in the credits.
  • Aloof Ally: Chloe is this for Max.
  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: The theme song for the Japanese version of the film is "Brand New Tomorrow" by Leo Ieiri.
  • Amazon Chaser: Max only reciprocates Gidget's crush on him after seeing her go One-Dog Army on Snowball's minions.
  • Ambiguously Gay: After Gidget describes what Max looks like, Tiberius says he sounds dreamy.
  • Animal Talk: Only the viewer can hear what the animals (minus the ones who don't talk at all) are saying.
  • Animals Lack Attributes: Quite surprisingly averted; several animals actually have visible anuses, with Chloe's being the most notable. Yes, the cat butt most cat owners are familiar with finally makes an appearance in an animated kid's movie.
  • Anthropomorphic Food: The anthropomorphic sausages in the Disney Acid Sequence.
  • Aroused by Their Voice: Pops becomes attracted to Chloe after hearing her voice for the first time.
  • Artistic License – Animal Care:
    • In real life, if Chloe ate that entire iced cake, she would most likely end up in the vet, if not dead, because many human sugary foods are highly dangerous to animals. Chocolate's especially dangerous due to Theobromine, an ingredient that causes liver failure when it can't be metabolized fast enough, as many species' outside of humans can't. Cats are especially susceptible.
    • The scene where Chloe's owner cuddles her without securing her bottom also counts.
    • The tanks for both the turtle and the fish in the intro are woefully unequipped for both kinds of animals.
    • While well-intentioned, Katie doesn't seem to have thought through getting her second dog, since she introduces them without restrictions, has no extra items for Duke, and doesn't give them time to acclimate to one another while still feeling safe.
    • Not to mention that a dog Duke's size probably needs more space than a small New York City apartment.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: The other dogs hear Max call for help, but then a butterfly flies by and they chase after it instead.
  • Ax-Crazy: Snowball has a maniacal plan to attack happy pets and owners and doesn't care too much about collateral damage.
  • Badass Adorable: Gidget. She's a cute, fluffy, sweet little Pomeranian, but over the course of her search for Max, she scolds a hawk, beats up a cat, and clobbers the entirety of the Flushed Pets all by herself.
  • Beware the Cute Ones:
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Gidget. "I'M DONE PLAYING NICE!"
  • Big Bad: The Animal Control officers can count as one, since they're the whole reason this mess even started.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • Just when Snowball's goons are going to attack Max on the Brooklyn Bridge, Gidget's group shows up and curb stomps them. Played with in that most of her group are not shown doing any fighting.
    • This is repeated a bit later when, just as it looks like Max and Duke are going to drown in the sinking animal control van, Snowball dives into the water and manages to get the keys to unlock Duke's cage and save the day.
  • Big Eater: Chloe is an obese cat who eats an entire chicken, then starts eyeballing a cake.
  • Brick Joke: When the pets arrive at Pops' party to ask for his help, Chloe ends up suffering a moment of Disaster Dominoes which ends with her being covered in all the party food, while some dogs (including one with a GoPro attached to his head) laugh at her. A few scenes later, it's shown that they uploaded the video to YouTube, where it's become a huge hit (much to Chloe's chagrin).
  • Bullying a Dragon: Max is overtly hostile to the much larger Duke once advised to act like the Alpha, despite his size.
  • Casting Gag:
  • A Cat in a Gang of Dogs: Chloe is the only cat among the team of pets.
  • Cats Are Mean: Downplayed with Chloe, but played straight with the other cats.
  • Cats Are Snarkers: Chloe.
  • Conflict Ball: The antagonism between Max and Duke is played up or downplayed based on the needs of the plot. The two will be plotting nefarious ends for each other in one moment, only to have them selflessly rescuing each other in the next.
  • Cool Old Guy:
    • Duke's previous owner was an affable old man.
    • Pops is an aged basset hound who turned his owner's house into a nonstop pet party palace.
  • Dance Party Ending: Mel (dressed as a Minion), Buddy (dressed as a Bar-ba-loot), Snowball and the Flushed Pets all join the party at Leonard's house.
  • Deus ex Machina: We are given absolutely no explanation for Gidget's mad kickass skills, which allow her to completely wreck all of Snowball's goons in a way that would make Neo look like a wimp. It just comes out of nowhere and is so sudden, unexpected and over-the-top that it is hard not to see it as this trope.
  • Dinky Drivers: More than once, animals team up to operate motor vehicles. It goes about as well as you'd expect. No explanation is given for how they learned to drive.
  • Disney Acid Sequence: A scene where Max and Duke sneak into a hot dog factory, gorge themselves on sausages, and suddenly experience a bizarre musical sequence with anthropomorphic frankfurters dancing and singing to the tune of "We Go Together".
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: As pointed out by Double Toasted, the way Snowball uses the word "Pets" when he first meets Max and Duke is a bit similar to insulting someone by calling them an ethnic slur.
  • Dogs Hate Squirrels: A lot of the dog characters in the movie are depicted as utterly despising squirrels. In one scene where Gidget is about to tell the gang about Max's disappearance only for Mel to sidetrack the conversation, assuming she was about to state that squirrels intend to take over the world. Another scene has Mel and Buddy barking at two squirrels for being in a tree they just... marked, only to get pelted with acorns for their troubles. And another scene features Tiberius going into a fantasy about being Gidget's friend which includes the two of them maniacally laughing as they swoop in on an unlucky squirrel.
  • Dog Stereotype: Averted for Leonard the poodle. Usually poodles in fiction are female, but this one is male.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Invoked whenever Snowball is behind the wheel of a vehicle. The second time, he intentionally rams into other vehicles just for fun.
  • Easily Forgiven: Snowball is prone to doing this, as part of his Chaotic Neutral tendencies.
  • Enemy Mine: Max and Snowball team up to rescue Duke and some of Snowball's goons from Animal Control. They somehow end up hijacking a bus.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Snowball.
    • He has a strong dislike of the dog catchers.
    • While he is technically mourning, even he realized The Viper probably did some horrible things while still alive.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: Inverted. After Duke accidentally knocks over a vase, Max panics, thinking that Katie is going to flip... then suddenly realizes that's a good thing, since Duke will get the blame. Cue Max knocking over everything in sight while Duke frantically tries to stop him.
  • Expressive Ears: Unsurprisingly, a good portion of the animal characters have them, given that even though we see them speaking to each other and doing human-like things, they still often behave like real pets.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: After some brief flashbacks in the opening showing how Max came to live with Katie, a few scenes show one day and then the majority of the film takes place over the course of a second day.
  • Failed a Spot Check:
    • Both the dog walker and the other dogs completely fail to notice that Max and Duke have gone missing.
    • Gidget completely fails to notice anything potentially worrying about being guided to a "dark and foreboding shed" by a bird that describes her scent as "salty with a gamey thing going on" and then guides her to cross a large pile of bones to release him, all the while repeatedly referring to her as "food".
  • Fantastic Racism: Snowball and the rest of the Flushed Pets hate domesticated animals, believing they've "made their choice" of the humans over their fellow animals. This changes after he becomes one himself.
  • Fat Slob: Duke seems like a very crass dog.
  • Feathered Fiend:
    • Tiberius the hawk seems to be this at first. After Gidget scolds, then befriends him, he becomes a Noble Bird of Prey. (He's still a bit tempted to eat Norman, but restrain himself.)
    • Ricky the duck, whose villainy was posthumously recounted by Snowball.
  • Freudian Excuse: The aptly-named "Flushed Pets" were all abandoned and/or mistreated by their owners.
  • Glass Smack and Slide: Gidget heroically rushes out the window... only to plummet and land onto an awning, which launches her at Chloe's apartment window where she smacks flat, before sliding down.
  • G-Rated Drug: Uncooked sausages are apparently these to dogs.
  • Green Gators: Derick is a vivid green Sewer Gator.
  • Grievous Harm with a Body: Gidget uses a snake to stranglehold two Flushed Pets dog members, then make their skulls bang together.
  • Hair-Raising Hare: Snowball, a rabbit seeking revenge on happy owners and pets. At one point he attacks a dog catcher and thoroughly kicks his ass.
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: Snowball, when forced to team up with Max to save Duke. He tries to go back to his evil ways afterwards, but is then taken in by a little girl.
  • Heroic Canines, Villainous Felines: Zig-zagged. Chloe is haughty and aloof to her dog friends, but she's still fond of them deep down, is nevertheless part of the gang and is the one who inspires the others to help Gidget rescue Max. There is an element of "cats vs. dogs" in their interactions, but it's more a friendly rivalry than anything else. The real dichotomy actually comes down to "Heroic Domesticated Animals, Villainous Stray/Feral Animals". While the feral alley cats that Max and Duke encounter are pretty vicious, the Flushed Pets include cats, dogs and a wide assortment of other animals among their ranks, and the Big Bad is a rabbit.
  • Hidden Depths: Leonard the poodle is secretly into System of a Down of all things.
  • High-Altitude Interrogation: Attempted by Tiberius on Ozone, to try and get Max's location out of him. Ozone isn't fazed one bit, so Tiberius turns him over to Gidget, whose own interrogation proves far more effective.
  • Homeless Hero: Inverted. The Flushed Pets are the main antagonists of the film, and are essentially homeless villains. Played straigh with Norman, however, who's spends most of the movie lost in the vents.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Norman.
    • After Tiberius attempts to eat him (and then acts "friendly" in a very creepy way), he announces "I like this bird!"
    • He also briefly sides with the Flushed Pets near the end of the movie, laughing along with them as they corner Max.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Chloe laughs at the dogs getting excited over a ball, but then gets just as excited over a laser pointer Sweet Pea is using.
  • Imagine Spot: Tiberius has one of Gidget riding on his back through town. It ends with him nabbing a squirrel.
  • Instant Humiliation: Just Add YouTube!: Chloe's Humiliation Conga at Pops' apartment gets posted on YouTube, where it becomes Pick of the Day and shown on the Times Square Jumbotron. Also counts as The Internet Is for Cats.
  • Intentional Mess Making: Max is jealous of Duke, the new dog his owner brought home. After Duke accidentally knocks over a lamp, Max decides to make an even bigger mess so that Duke would get blamed for it and get thrown out.
  • Interspecies Romance:
    • Pops the basset hound takes quite a shine to Chloe the cat, though it doesn't go much of anywhere.
    • Snowball steals a kiss from Gidget before his Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Gidget beats up a hairless cat to try and get information about Max's whereabouts.
  • Jerkass:
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Max, Duke, Chloe and Snowball.
  • Karma Houdini: Snowball commits mayhem and violence, with tons of collateral damage, and in the end he's adopted by a little girl who promises to love him forever.
  • Killed Off for Real: The Viper and Duke's first owner.
  • Killer Rabbit: Snowball. He even attacks Animal Control like one (but without killing them, of course).
  • Language Barrier: Downplayed. Humans can't understand animals, but animals seem to understand humans just fine.
  • Mood Whiplash: The bulk of the film is a straight comedy, but after the surreal hot dog factory sequence, we get treated to two rather sad scenes; the first is where Duke reveals his backstory to Max and that he wishes to find his old owner. Not a few scenes later, and Duke does find his old home — only to discover a new family has moved in, and their cat informs him that his original owner had died in his absence, presumably of old age. And then Duke gets captured again, and the film quickly goes into an action packed climax.
  • Mushroom Samba: Chloe and Max regard Mel's story about "suitcases in the sky" while being trapped in a cage and waking up in Florida after being fed a mysterious white pill as one of these. Of course, it was simply Mel and his owner going on vacation and Mel's owner giving him a sedative to keep him calm during the flight but, since the animals have no concept of planes and Mel missed several vital steps due to being unconscious, they're naturally skeptical.
    Mel: I will never eat a pill like that again. Unless it's covered in peanut butter, because c'mon, right? It's peanut butter.
  • Nearly Normal Animal: The pets are mostly Largely Normal Animals, although a few of them (Sweet Pea the parakeet, Peppy the chihuahua, the one-fanged viper) don't appear to be able to talk with the other animals.
  • Never Say "Die":
    • Surprisingly averted for an otherwise kid-friendly movie — Snowball openly admits that the Flushed Pets are out to kill human owners, Max and Duke are cajoled into creating a story about how they killed their owner, and a neighborhood cat tells Duke that his previous owner died.
    • Played straight with Duke. He is genuinely terrified of going back to the pound. Katie mentions it was his last chance, which moved her to take him in. The dog catchers also say it's "the end of the line" for Duke. All euphemisms for the fact that he will be euthanized if he goes back.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: Gidget, a pampered and naive Pomeranian, is suddenly able to leap into a fray against dozens of feral animals — including a Sewer Gator — and curb-stomp them all without effort. There is no explanation whatsoever for how she's able to do this (except maybe The Power of Love).
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Sweet Pea's owner is a somewhat large, bald, bearded animal lover, reminiscent of Jackson Galaxy.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Max tries to reunite Duke with his previous owner — only to discover he died, and a new family has bought his house and moved in.
    Duke: Why did you bring me here, Max?
    Max: Wait a minute. This is my fault? You know, I was trying to help you!
    Duke: You were trying to get rid of me!
    Max: Yeah, you know what, Duke? I don't need this. Um... See you later.
  • Non Sequitur, *Thud*: When Snowball is disoriented by the bus crash:
    Snowball: That raccoon's lying. He ain't the President! [face plants]
  • Noodle People: Most of the humans.
  • Not What It Looks Like: After the bus crash, the Flushed Pets arrive to see Max carrying Snowball, who is injured and unconscious, and immediately jump to the conclusion that Max attacked their leader.
  • Oblivious to Love: Max is completely unaware of Gidget's blatant crush on him.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Max makes his way to the TV cord without a sound when trying to take control of the situation.
  • Once Killed a Man with a Noodle Implement: Discussed, parodied, and subverted. When Max and Duke are making up a story for the Flushed Pets about how they "killed" their previous owners, they claim to have used a spoon. Snowball retorts that it's impossible to kill someone with a spoon, and the rest of the Flushed Pets agree. Max and Duke hurriedly "explain" that they used the spoon to turn on the actual murder weapon: a blender.
  • Potty Failure:
    • Pepe (who pulled a Screw This, I'm Outta Here at the beginning of the movie) ends up urinating in excitement at the end when he sees his owners.
    • Snowball poops himself while performing an Evil Laugh.
  • Pounds Are Animal Prisons: Though we don't actually see a pound, this is implied, with Duke talking about how he can't go back to the pound because he's on his final strike and this would be it for him. The pound van is also basically treated as a small-cell paddywagon that has to be broken out of.
  • The Power of Love: Gidget's love for Max is a driving force. Realizing he's missing is what pulls her away from the Telenovelas she follows. Also, like Fiona, she has violent Hidden Depths, surfacing only when her heart's desire is in trouble.
  • Production Foreshadowing: The bus that Max and Snowball hijack during the climax has an ad for Sing on it.
  • Product Placement:
    • One of the chihuahuas in one scene is wearing a GoPro.
    • YouTube and Mott's Applesauce appear on billboards in Times Square.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Zigzagged with the dog catchers, as, while they're technically doing their job of catching dogs, say things like "It's over for you!" and "I'll kill you!" They also act pretty evil, relentlessly hunting down Duke and Max. This makes it all the more satisfying when their van falls into the water.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: Gidget's "WHERE! IS! MAX?!" when interrogating Ozone.
  • Rasputinian Death: The Viper's death: First, he gets crushed by some falling ceiling debris, but emerges unscathed. Then he gets crushed by a larger pile of debris. And then a huge chunk of brick wall, which then spontaneously catches fire.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Buddy the Dachshund is the mellow, easygoing blue oni to Mel the Pug's excitable and energetic red oni. This trope is even Lampshaded by the color of their leashes.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: A lot of the animals, including Max, Gidget, and Snowball.
  • Running Gag: Tiberius the hawk being tempted to eat the smaller animals.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here:
    • When Gidget is trying to get the other pets to help her find and rescue Max, Pepe just gets up and walks out the door.
    • When Snowball catches the eye of a little girl, the rest of the Flushed Pets quickly flee back into the sewers, but accidentally close the manhole cover before Snowball can follow them.
  • Sewer Gator: The "Flushed Pets", a criminal organization of former pets living in the sewers who have sworn revenge against humans, led by the maniacal rabbit Snowball. One of its members is even a gator named Derek.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: Subverted. Early in the film, Max breaks a lot of knick-knacks in the apartment in hopes of framing Duke for it and getting him kicked out. When their owner shows up at the end of the film and notices the destruction, she seems understandably displeased, but lets it slide.
  • Shaking the Rump:
    • Two squirrels do this to mock Mel and Buddy.
    • Max briefly twerks at other dogs as he's being walked (mostly to mock Duke).
  • Shout-Out:
    • Snowball definitely seems to pay homage to the Killer Rabbit from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, as noted on his character entry.
    • The cab driver is listening to "Happy"
    • When Max and Duke are escaping the first time, a turtle is knocked along the path in front of them, taking out other animals in their way, much like the Super Mario games. There are even accompanying 8-bit sound effects!
    • Snowball may also come across to My Little Pony fans as a shout-out to Angel Bunny, Fluttershy's cute but evil pet.
    • Tiberius hanging Ozone off a building is in the same vein as Bolt doing it to a car (in his own show), and then Mittens (in the real world).
    • When Pops falls for Chloe, and she tells him that they can't be together because she's a cat, his response is "Nobody's perfect."
    • Many reviewers (Like Brad Jones and Matthew Buck) believe that the aforementioned Disney Acid Sequence is a reference to the then-unreleased Sausage Party.
    • Snowball mourns the death of Ricky, a duck who was his best soldier. This references Boyz n the Hood, as well as Get Hard, where Kevin Hart (Snowball's voice actor) references the same movie.
    • When Chloe hangs by one paw, Sweet Pea forces her claws off the ledge one by one in the classic Tweety manner.
  • Shown Their Work: In spite of the Artistic License – Animal Care that was Played for Laughs, pet owners will definitely get a lot of laughs at how the pets behave.
  • Stealth Pun: When interrogating Ozone, Gidget, a female dog, pins him to the ground and slaps him a few times.
  • Strong as They Need to Be: Snowball. In his first scene, he easily overpowers an animal control officer. But when he later attacks Max, Max barely even feels his blows. And neither does the little girl who adopts Snowball when he initially resists.
  • Tattooed Crook: Tattoo, a tattooed pig, is part of the Flushed Pets. He used to be the mascot of a tattoo parlor and had trainees test their skills on his skin, until he ran out of room and was abandoned. Why no-one bothered to tattoo his underside is not even hinted at.
  • The Tooth Hurts: The Viper's sole fang can be seen flying off from his mouth as he's buried under a second pile of debris moments before he is crushed to death.
  • Toilet-Drinking Dog Gag: During the party at Pops' apartment, a dog is drinking from the toilet as others chant, "Chug! Chug! Chug!"
  • Toilet Humour:
  • Urine Trouble: Pepe at the beginning of the movie when his owner leaves, Pepe jumps on a plant hanging in the room and lifts his leg.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit:
    • Conversed. Duke gets mad at Max, but the little dog pretends to use this trope to get under his skin.
    • Zigzagged when Tiberius tricks Gidget into freeing him. When he calls out to Gidget offering to help Max, he asks Gidget to remove his hood, and subsequently flies out and tries to eat her. He insists it's his killer instincts at work, and indeed does seem to fight them a few times, so it's not completely clear how straight it's being played.
  • You Wouldn't Like Me When I'm Angry!: when Max starts grumbling about him, Duke looms over him menacingly and says that if they don't get along, it ain't gonna be pretty.
    Duke: So that's how it's gonna be, huh? Oh, man, are you making me angry! And when I get angry, I do this! [growls] And I hate doing that! I need this place! And if it's gonna come down to you or me, it's gonna be ME!


La Pasion de la Pasion

From "The Secret Life of Pets"

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