The Secret Life of Pets- surprisingly funny

I watched Secret Life of Pets recently on TV and it is surprisingly funny. It is also surprisingly incoherent. The character development was awful.  The interactions between main characters Max and Duke are very forced, and the audience is often invited to fill the gaps. But it was nonetheless enjoyable.

The story is about the social life of apartment pets in New York while their owners leave for work or whatever. They somehow manage to meet in adjoining units, via fire escape ladders, air vents, parkour etc. The main protagonist, Jack Russel Terrier Max, is one day forced to share his apartment with new housemate and co-pet big dog Duke. They dislike each other, and managed to get lost in New York City on the next day through the negligence of a dog-walker. They encounter feral city cats, dog catchers, a combat-savvy rabbit and his car-driving cronies and a sewer full of live flushed pets. Max’s love interest and fluffy white thing Gidget leads the neighbours, including an unrealistically abstinent falcon, to retrieve Max. Following a commotion at the Brooklyn Bridge, which includes the combat-savvy rabbit jumping off the bridge into river unscathed and rescuing Max and Duke from a submerged van, the momentarily loose pets return home with renewed camaraderie.

Secret Life of Pets is an insane film. The character developments are scattershot and the action is exaggerated. But Secret Life of Pets is hilarious and the humour is at times quite intelligent. It is an anti-Disney film. The only death scene (yes, there is a death scene!) would make any Disney exec bawl- a viper being crushed, first by some rubble then by large slabs of concrete and then set on fire. It’s refreshing to watch an animated film that does not attempt to mollycoddle kids or appease potentially uptight parents. And huge props for working a System of A Down track into the film (it was also in the trailer, but I didn’t think it would be part of the movie!)

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: the film where everything is made up and the plot don’t matter

A motley crew of barely compatible misfits venture through space, visiting planets, double-crossing alien acquaintances with calculated insouciance amid a vintage soundtrack. I am talking about Cowboy Bebop, of course, the anime that anticipates all the tropes that make the Guardians of the Galaxy movies stand out by over a decade.

Cowboy Bebop is evidence that anime, when written and executed expertly, can be just as credible as any other form of visual storytelling. The Guardians of the Galaxy movies, to the horror of Cowboy Bebop fans who forever yearn for the anime to be recognised as much as the likes of anime royalties Dragon Ball and Naruto, appear to rip off Cowboy Bebop shamelessly. With a long gap between the two sets of cosmic cruisers, it would be futile to analyse whether GG did commit blatant theft from Cowboy Bebop à la Rocket the racoon, but it suffices to say I was not as enamored by Baby Groot as I should be because Ein the Corgi has long occupied that special place in my heart for space-trekking non-talking cute things (yes I know Baby Groot ‘talks’).

As far as GG Vol. 2 is concerned, the elephant in the room is that the plot sucked.  The entire plot was driven forward by the inconsequential yellow folk of whatshisname planet getting upset over, um, blatant theft à la Rocket the racoon. Compared to the gravity of the Infinity Stone in Vol. 1, Vol. 2 feels like a filler. I mean, why else would Marvel torment leaving cinema audience with FIVE post-credit scenes? And obvious evil dad was obvious.

But if you’re gonna denounce GG Vol 2 for its plot, you’re missing the point. The entire film is very enjoyable as viewers are served with huge, greasy portions of superb CGI, contrived banter, 70s rock earworm, extremely dated “enemies’ lasers missing the spaceship” scenes, extremely dated romantic tension, and Baby Groot.  I’d challenge anyone to direct GG Vol. 2 and milk Baby Groot’s appeal the way it was done; you just can’t do a better job.   GG Vol. 2 is pure fun, and even the death scene is made less profound by the film’s light tone (by contrast, the passing of Quill’s mother at the start of Vol. 1 demanded an effort from a weary viewer to embrace the ensuing upbeat).

If you choose tonindulge in deep-fried ice cream, you must know what you’re getting- it’s no poached lobster with cauliflower purée. But GG Vol. 2 is deep-fried,  ice cream of the highest cinematic quality. Nutritional content is irrelevant.