The Secret Life Of Pets

The Secret Life of Pets is just one of those animated movies coming out this year that I gave absolutely, positively, no fucks about. There are animated movies all the time and all of them are competing to be the best.

I wasn’t apathetic because it wasn’t Disney or Pixar. I like a lot of other studios, I am not some weird populist. No, I am apathetic because it is being made by Illumination Entertainment. Before this film, they have made 5 movies and they are all objectively bad. Despicable Me, its sequel and Minions were bad, The Lorax was bad, and Hop was racist and bad.

I only saw the original trailer for The Secret Life Of Pets a few months ago. Outside of the awkward title, it just didn’t look like it would be an original movie. Oh, talking pets? That hasn’t been done before. (Cough)

Now a 25 minute scene on venom drugs in a kids movie? That is new.

The movie takes place in NYC, big place, lot of people, lot of animals. And pets can talk and understand each other. Not just pets, all animals. They have some universal language despite not having the same noises.

Max (Louis C.K.) is a loyal house pet, taken as a puppy from a box for free by his owner, Katie (Ellie Kemper). He is greatful for her and waits almost all day in front of the door when she leaves. He has a ton of friends in the apartment complex and across the way who like to hang out while the owners are away. There is Chloe (Lake Bell), a fat cat, Mel (Bobby Moynihan), a pug, Buddy (Hannibal Buress), a dachshund, and a bird Sweet Pea who I guess doesn’t talk, just chirps.

But then Katie comes home with a surprise. She comes home with Duke (Eric Stonestreet). He is big, he is wild, and he is taking over the alpha dog status from Max. So Max wants to get rid of him. He wants to destroy the place so Katie will take him back to the pound. They begin to fight with each other more and more, and sure, yeah, somehow it ends up with them both now out of the apartment, collars lost, just trying to get back home.

And they are in New York City. Everyone knows it is a rough and tumble place for strays. You all saw Oliver & Company. On the streets they have to deal with animal control, the League of Flushed Pets (run by a bunny voiced by Kevin Hart), and shit like water.

Also featuring Jenny Slate as the puffy Gidget who lived across the street and was in love with Max, Albert Brooks as Tiberius, a hawk, and Steve Coogan, Dana Carvey, Tara Strong, and Michael Beattie.

New Dog
Duke could straight up eat Max. And Katie. And me.

Like I had feared, The Secret Life of Pets doesn’t offer a whole lot to the animation genre. The animation isn’t state of the art, with the quality looking more or less the same as the first Despicable Me film. This time there are only four or five important human characters, so their awkward proportional bodies isn’t super distracting like it is for other films. We just get slightly exaggerated pet bodies, which is a bit easier to accept.

About half of the film reminded me of Toy Story, the first one, the one that came out 21 years ago! New pet (toy), they argue and fight, both pets (toys) get lost from home and face near death to get back. Hell, there are a couple of scenes where they even have to chase a car where one or the other is trapped.

Nothing was surprising about this movie. It is incredibly simplistic and places where they could have added conflict and a bit of emotional connection are just nothing. Duke had an older owner and they attempt to find them during their time in the city. Without spoilers, things don’t go the right way. Perfect time for a nice emotional scene, but it is rushed through and another bullshit conflict is added. Bullshit conflict to move the plot is lazy, and this film is full of it.

One more complaint paragraph before some pros, don’t worry. The ending was a complete mess too. From the quickest phone call animal control response ever, to the unnecessary all out brawl between pets, to a no real stakes rescue, to the third or fourth time of the animals driving crazily vehicles, it just ended on so many bad notes. And yes, a brawl to solve a big issue is shit. Grown Ups 2 did it, and this movie did it just for a quick joke. Especially when an easy explanation could have fixed everything and taught some better morals.

Cat Face
Unrelated fun fact: An Andrew WK song appears in this movie. Party, party, party!

“But why with all these issues did you give it an average rating?” Well, surprisingly the voice acting saved the shit out of this movie. Kevin Hart as a bunny? I didn’t know I needed that in my life. His voice works great in animated films and his antics get less annoying when he isn’t the lead. Jenny Slate has been annoying to me in her last few films, but her as the Gidget was also pretty great. Albert Brooks as a hawk is the final amazing aspect of the voice acting. All three brought their A-game and brought it on hard.

The animation wasn’t completely average in every area either. The scenes with the snake, both seen above and as a sort of password felt really cool. They worked the 3D really well to make these animals pop out in unique ways. And shit, there was a dream sequence about sausage featuring the finale song from Grease, and it was a visual explosion of wonder.

The Secret Life of Pets won’t win awards for story, visuals, or make a lot of money. But the cast do the best with what they are given and technically make the best film Illumination Entertainment has ever made (in my eyes).

I still don’t want a sequel, because the entire idea behind all of this is just so uninspired. It feels like a straight to DVD animated film, just with some top tier celebrities to voice the animals.

2 out of 4.

The Master of Disguise

We here at Gorgon Reviews believe in tradition. It is tradition that puts a review out every weekday, that keeps the chuckles coming, and forces me up late at night to write long lengthy pieces.

That’s right. Another Milestone Review. This time the magical number is 1600. And I didn’t have to look long. My last Milestone Review was The Love Guru, a truly unfunny film that killed Mike Myers‘ career and wasn’t accurate to the wonderful sport of Hockey.

But Myers used to have a buddy. A comprade, a friend, also from SNL. Dana Carvey. He played small roles mostly, never really famous, but he did make his own big flop. One that, basically, also killed his career. No longer could these dude’s just party on, they reached a point where people didn’t want to see them anymore.

And for Carvey, that point was apparently reached in 2003 with the release of The Master of Disguise. A film so hated and talked down upon on the internet, that I imagined there could be no way it was that bad. It was probably just jerks who didn’t even see it and hated the trailer. It is cool to hate on movies in a crowd, after all.

I needed to give The Master of Disguise a chance. It is important, for poor old Carvey’s sake.

I just have to remember that it came out in 2002 when jokes like these might have been funny.

Our story begins in 1979, where we learn about the Disguisey family. They are an Italian family who have learned to harness the power of disguise. Not just putting on a costume and changing your voice, but almost fully becoming a new person. They have used this power for good and to protect the world from bad people. Never anything super dangerous, just common criminals.

Which is why we see Bo Derek running from armed criminals. Bo Derek?! No, just kidding. It is actually Fabbrizio Disguisey (James Brolin) in disguise as Bo Derek. With his help, a criminal, Devlin Bowman (Brent Spiner) gets arrested. He ran a smuggling ring and thus he had to be stopped.

The life of a Disguisey is very dangerous, but it is a calling they feel in their blood. Despite this, Fabbrizio decides to not tell his young son of these gifts and responsibilities, to protect him from a hard future. And he isn’t all the way there in the head.

This isn’t even part of a disguise. For him, this is just Tuesday.

Now, 23 years later, Fabbrizio is presumably retired from the game and just running an Italian restaurant in unnamed Italian family. He has a wife (Edie McClurg), with the name of Mother Disguisey, and a awkward, nerdy son who is a waiter at the restaurant. Now, poor Pistachio, he has the urge to be a true Disguisey without knowing what that means. So instead he spends a lot of his time dressing up in his room and mimicking guests with unique voices.

These are not good traits for a waiter, but damn it, Fabbrizio loves his son. Pistachio thinks he has finally hit it off with a lovely big reared lady, Sophia (Maria Canals-Barrera), but she is actually into another waiter.

But Pistachio is still a good guy. He is nice to kids. Like little Brave Barney Baker (Austin Wolff), who hurts himself skateboarding outside the shop. To make him feel better, Pistachio lets him play with his dog, The Cuteness, whenever he wants.

And that is his mom! We will get to her eventually.

Moving right along, PISTACHIO’S PARENTS GET CAPTURED! Oh no! People break into their home and take them away and he has no idea who did it. He tries to call the police, but he sounds so ridiculous they assume it is a prank! That is when his grandfather shows up, Grandfather Disguisey (Harold Gould), to help him out. Pistachio didn’t know he existed because his dad kept him away. Grandfather realizes he needs to teach Pistachio to become a Master of Disguise, to save his parents. And no, Grandfather cannot do it for him.

Grandfather has to teach Pistachio the power of Energico, a mysterious force that only the Disguisey’s can access. By repeating some lines and focusing hard, they can truly become another person, learning skills they never knew before, or languages, or just general knowledge. It is the most important part of the disguise.

And sure, Pistachio needs an assistant too. After a long search, they find Jennifer Barker (Jennifer Esposito), Barney’s mom. She needs money and likes the fact that there is health insurance, but doesn’t understand her responsibilities. They reluctantly pick her, despite her small butt.

Turtle’s are only into butts that remind them of their mother.

Guess who kidnapped the parents? Of course, it was Devlin Bowman, out of prison after 22 years or so, and looking just as young and as fly as ever.

He has nefarious designs for them. Well not really. He is forcing Fabbrizio to use his Disguisey powers to help him steal priceless treasure from around the world. And that is about it. You know, the Constitution, Liberty Bell, things like that. In order to get him to comply, he has locked away the wife and given her drugs to make her think she is just constantly preparing dinner. But if he refuses to act, he will have her killed!

At the scene of the kidnapping, Jennifer finds a use cigar belonging to The Turtle Club, a members only rich thing in their city. Of course, Pistachio takes this name literally and tries to be the Turtle-ist person he can be. Turtle-ist de Turtle de Derp. This is the scene you can remember from the trailers. Despite Pistachio’s best efforts, they are still able to get inside. Apparently the cigar is super custom made and belonged to a Devlin Bowman. Thanks Turtle Club!

Well isn’t that special.

The duo decide to look for Bowman at a local antique fair in the city, because everyone knows that Bowman loves antiques. Pistachio dresses up like a sex crazed old lady to seduce Bowman (see above, not actually the Church Lady but close enough), and well, it doesn’t work. However, he does take a liking to Jennifer, and invites her over to a party later at his house.

And hey, that is in the job detail. She has to do it. There at the party, Pistachio is now dressed up like a pseudo-Scarface character who likes to party. Because reasons. He uses this character to distract Bowman, while Jennifer goes into his house and looks for clues.

She doesn’t find much, but what she does find is pictures that will help give the whereabouts of Fabbrizio, somehow. I honestly have no idea how that part works.

Pistachio continues to be very annoying, so Bowman sends his henchmen after Pistachio. He escapes by dressing up like a Jaws parody person on a boat and also as grass, complete with cow shit.

Carvey goes into water. Disguises in the water.

For whatever reason, Jennifer is now trapped at Bowman’s house and needs rescuing. But not in a daring way, just an excuse to leave. None of this makes sense, but Pistachio does two different disguises to get her out, changing after he is let in the lobby and no one seems to care. Despite “Rescuing” her, Bowman sends his goons to follow them.

Later, the pair look at the pictures and figure out all of Bowman’s plan, including where his items are being held! Hooray! They also run into Trent (Mark Devine), her boyfriend, on a date with another woman. Oh no! Pistachio uses his magical Slapping powers to take him down, and he is a big hero, slapping a would be cheater dick guy.

When Pistachio drops Jennifer off at her house, he gets a kiss and he is smitten. Despite that, after leaving, the goons decide to kidnap Jennifer and take her hostage. Why her, not Pistachio? Why did they wait so long? Why did he just not keep her when she was at the house? The world will never know.

Either way, thanks to hologram technology, Pistachio figures out a plan and sneaks into the house as a cherry pie.

Okay okay, I will admit, this part was pretty unexpected.

Pistachio, basically the best thing ever now, is able to defeat Bowman’s Ninja army with ease. But Bowman has one more plan. He has brainwashed Fabbrizio! Now Fabbrizio is wearing a Bowman outfit and thinks he is actually Bowman. So the real Bowman escapes with the U.S. Constitution, while Pistachio has to get his father back into his own mind.

And you know, he does that. Hooray! So the return all the artifacts, Pistachio is a master now, and he marries Jennifer. Man, that was quick.

Oh but Bowman got away. They find him in Coasta Rica, so Pistachio dresses up as George W. Bush to get the document back and Bowman is to be locked away!

And then there are about ten minutes of credits, full of bloopers, and other outfits that didn’t make it into the final showing for whatever reason. And after the credits is a 90 second or two minute scene, where Pistachio finds out that a midget was in the Slap Dummy apparatus the whole time. And he is dressed like Mario! Shenanigans! Also The Cuteness, the dog, was the grandfather the whole time.

Did you catch all of those last minute post credit plot twists?!

The Master of Disguise is rated PG for some mild language and crude humor. Why the low rating? Well, apparently Carvey wanted to make a movie his kids could watch, because everything else he had done was for older kids and adults. And so yeah, he wanted a super family friendly movie. Based on that logic, Carvey seemed to want something full of fart jokes, an extremely simple plot, bad acting, and a waste of time.

First of all, Carvey’s main character accent was terrible. It was consistent, if anything, but the Italian-American accent wasn’t even a great parody, so it is annoying we had to hear that throughout the film. One recurring joke was that Bowman would laugh uncontrollably, because he is so evil, and a fart would ruin it. He had gas, and he had it a lot. The ever recurring fart joke.

Another unfortunate recurring joke involved basically sexual harassment in the work place. Pistachio and the Grandfather constantly talk bad about Jennifer’s butt, asked for her measurements for a make believe uniform, ignore the fact that she has a boyfriend (jerk or not) and assume she will eventually fall for Pistachio. On top of that, the Grandfather basically scowls every time she brings up a question on her pay or dental care, basically stringing this poor single mother along who clearly just wants to provide for her son.

Good family values there.

The humor was incredibly low, most of them revolving around Carvey doing stereotypical impressions. We had a German courier and a British detective out of nowhre, completely minor parts. But the funniest bit was the guy from the final picture, who only appeared in the credits as a deleted scene character. Fuck, he was funny and with a really amusing voice. That not making the final film just made me despise most of the other characters that much more.

Give me fat carnival people who talk like Wally Gator any day of the week. But just don’t give me this movie again.

0 out of 4.

Hotel Transylvania 2

Happy Marcho-wene! For those who read this months from now, I quite lazily decided to finally review Hotel Transylvania 2 in March. Hell, it even came out to DVD in January. No excuse valid, not even a busy Oscar season.

I thought Hotel Transylvania was only okay and really wasn’t surprised it had had a sequel. The animation isn’t top tier, so it is probably relatively easy to throw together a movie. And you know everyone in the voice cast is available for work. They keep busy, but they keep busy together.

Except for one person. CeeLo Green! He voiced the mummy in the last movie, but this time he is nowhere to be found. Instead they got Keegan-Michael Key to voice the mummy, keeping their “token black role” to one I guess?

Oh, and now old people might be voicing characters!

Mavis (Selena Gomez) and Jonathan (Andy Samberg) are getting married! But that isn’t the important plot point. They invite all of the family over, on both sides, except for Mavis’ Grandpa (Mel Brooks). He apparently doesn’t like humans. That will come back later.

Then they have a kid. A little ginger kid (Asher Blinkoff), gross I know. Because he is a male, Dracula (Adam Sandler) assumes he has inherited the vampire DNA (because his genetics is weird) and can’t wait for him to go doing Monster stuff. But instead, he can’t fly, has no fangs, can’t turn into a bat, and does a lot of normal baby things. Mavis is now very protective of the baby, living in the harsh Hotel monster environment. Jonathan just wants her to trust a babysitter and let them spend some time alone together.

Now it is like, five years later and it is still the same. Mavis wants to move to California, where Jonathan comes from, to live a normal and safe life. So Jonathan agrees to take her on a trip, but he likes the hotel and likes working there. So Jonathan and Dracula agree to hatch a plan: While they are gone checking out Cali, Drac will take the kid and go on a fear-adventure with his friends (Kevin James, Steve Buscemi, David Spade, Keegan-Michael Key) to scare him into going full vampire. Jonathan will try and make her think California is terrible so she won’t want to leave. Can’t go wrong.

Also featuring the work of Rob Riggle (Which was great), Fran Drescher, Molly Shannon, Megan Mullally, Nick Offerman, and Dana Carvey.

Rainbow Teeth
Jonathan fucked up. How could you go back when you get rainbow teeth?!

Hotel Transylvania 2 doesn’t live up to its predecessor. It also doesn’t improve anything along the way, with the exact same quality of animation.

First of all, it takes a long time to really understand just what this movie is about. Sure, vaguely it is about the family the whole film, but that isn’t a plot, those are just characters. A good third of the movie happens at least before we find out that the plot is a dad and husband lying to their daughter/wife, on a very ridiculous idea.

Secondly, it is all over the place in terms of applying its own rules. Namely I want to talk about vampires. They early on make the joke about how vampires can’t have their reflection, commonly shown through mirrors, but also any other thing that would capture their image. So of course, the wedding photographs are a bit funny. But then they let the vampires use skype and appear on video cameras, like they are really anything different. And of course, if they were wondering if the boy had any vampire in him, all they had to do was take a picture of him and see what happened. Unless in this world the vampireness just can develop all at once, and literally zero traits show up before hand.

Finally, the ending is a complete disaster. It ends with a complete brawl, all of our main characters versus an army of other characters (I wouldn’t want to spoil it). But yeah, it basically ends the same way that Grown Ups 2 ends. The fight is unnecessary and a bit nonsensical. It is unnecessary because it is the type of thing that could have been prevented and stopped at any moment by one of the characters literally just saying something. The bad guys wouldn’t have a beef with most of the monsters either, so they’d have no reason to attack them. And it was nonsensical, given the extreme powers that apparently exist in tiny bat forms. They just wanted to end it on a silly note, and kids like brawls I guess. But it is a shit move.

There were the occasional funny jokes. But this film had no focus and had no great conclusion. Mavis should take the baby and leave her husband and family behind, I think.

1 out of 4.