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Walking out of The Secret Life of Pets

This just in on Facebook from my friend Christy Tennant Krispin — a testimony worth considering:

My son and I just walked out of The Secret Life of Pets.

It was a mutual decision — he showed remarkable discernment for an 8-year-old boy.

My first moment of disgust was when they introduced the lead bad guy and he was voiced by Kevin Hart with a hyper-stereotypical black thug voice. I was so disappointed. I’m trying so hard to teach my son how to see his black brothers, and then I take him to yet another movie where the negative stereotypes are reiterated. (Thank goodness, again, for the decision J.J. Abrams made to make one of the lead heroes* in the new Star Wars movie a black man. Let’s have more of that, please.)

It would have been so much more creative and funny if they had voiced the lead thug with someone like Melissa McCarthy. Now that would have been hilarious. We should/could have left then, but it was when the pets started discussing how they could kill their humans/owners — when they started talking about chopping them up in a blender — that we were done. My son put his hands over his ears and said, “I don’t want to hear this.” I told him we could leave and find something else to watch, and he eagerly agreed.

I came home and looked up reviews, only to find that none of them I read (even from PluggedIn and Common Sense Media) shared my concerns. They gave positive reviews.

So for what it’s worth, neither I nor my son enjoyed it, and we disliked it enough to leave and ask for our money back.

We stopped at a garage sale on the way home and I gave my son some of the money from our refund, which he used to buy a microscope for $2. Which I thought was a great choice.

And now we’re off to the library so he can pick out another movie to watch on DVD. Maybe they have The Force Awakens” available. Now that’s something we’d really enjoy.

UPDATE

It turns out that Christy is not alone.

 

Thanks to Steven Greydanus (who gives the film a “C-” at Decent Films) for pointing me to this review from Walter Chaw at Film Freak Central:

It’s not remotely witty, never for a second clever, and with a typecast Kevin Hart voicing a one-trick racial pastiche of a bunny, it underscores the cultural divide between those who think Minions and The Lorax are unwatchable dreck and those who are wrong. It’s machine-tooled to make money, which it will after the manner of other things that make money at the expense of your children, but it’s worth considering that the reason for most of the terrible things in this world is our agreement that critical thinking is a burden, while anti-intellectualism is a roadmap to our survival as first a civilization, then as a species. In our society, saying that something is “for kids” means that it’s better, safer…unless it’s entertainment. The greatest trick the devil played is convincing an entire culture that it’s better not to waste time wondering if what you put in your child’s head is productive and smart. So long as there’s no sex in it, game on. If The Secret Life of Pets(hereafter Pets) were a chair, it would be made of broken glass and rusty nails. But hey, never mind, why criticize? It’s just for kids.

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7 Comments

  1. July 16, 2016 at 4:08 pm — Reply

    I am still baffled as to why anyone would want to spend money on this after sitting through that trailer 5362 times, but it sounds like your friend and her son made a good decision.

  2. July 16, 2016 at 4:37 pm — Reply

    SPOILER ALERT: I found it troubling as well, Jeff. To make it even stranger, the character of Snowball is a white bunny rabbit. I wasn’t sure WHAT to do with that. Even more troubling is they introduce us to this underground world of abandoned pets who understandably express extreme distrust/dislike for human owners. It’s hard to not draw comparisons with the relationship between the police and African Americans. But then, at the end of the movie, instead of addressing this issue, it is simply resolved when Snowball finds a home. All sins forgiven. It was just so thoughtless. BIG MISS. Thanks for drawing attention to this, because it’s troubling no other Christian reviewers (that I’ve found) have acknowledged the disparity.

  3. Christy K.
    July 16, 2016 at 5:40 pm — Reply

    Thanks for sharing this, Jeffrey. I searched and searched and could not find a single review that touched on the things that offended me about this film (aside from Alissa Wilkinson’s mention of the “racially awkward” portrayal of the leader of the animal thugs.) I may be in the minority, but I’m certainly not alone. A friend commented on my post that she and her son also left the theater during this film. Another friend’s 11-year-old daughter expressed disappointment that it was so “violent.” We ended up borrowing “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip” from the library, which co-stars the always delightful Tony Hale. And no mention of killing Dave in a blender. 😀

  4. July 16, 2016 at 7:58 pm — Reply

    I met that young man. Smart lad.

  5. July 19, 2016 at 10:44 pm — Reply

    ‘Maybe they have The Force Awakens” available. Now that’s something we’d really enjoy.’ … because her 8 year old boy would love to watch a patricide.

  6. July 25, 2016 at 11:40 pm — Reply

    Of all the reasons one could claim for “walking out” on this mindless, degenerate, artless kid cartoon, the fact that the animated bunny sounded black is what tipped her over the edge? Would Kevin Hart have signed up for the role and delivered his lines in the tenor he did if he was at all concerned the fictional bunny rabbit would adversely affect the way that children look at him? On the contrary, given that Kevin Hart already caters mainly to children and young adults in his comedy, his appearance in this unfortunate mega-hit will only solidify his coolness to kids who pay any heed to voice casts. In any case, very young kids who don’t care about the voice actors — the vast majority of them — will leave no different from the experience. Did this friend also turn off Hoodwinked! because Boingo was a smarmy, supremely unlikable villain with no redeeming qualities who’s meant to inspire in youths a deep distrust of strangers?

  7. […] …it was when the pets started discussing how they could kill their humans/owners — when they started talking about chopping them up in a blender — that we were done. My son put his hands over his ears and said, “I don’t want to hear this.” I told him we could leave and find something else to watch, and he eagerly agreed. ~Walking Out of The Secret Life of Pets […]

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Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet

Novelist and critic Jeffrey Overstreet teaches writing (Seattle Pacific University) and film studies (Northwest University and Houston Baptist University). He's written a memoir of moviegoing and faith (Through a Screen Darkly, Baker, 2007) and a fantasy series that begins with Auralia's Colors (The Auralia Thread, Random House, 2007-11). He's worked since 2001 as a film critic and columnist at Christianity Today, and he's been a regular contributor to Image, Paste, and Christ & Pop Culture. His writing has been recognized by The New Yorker and The Seattle Times. He regularly speaks at universities, conferences, and churches in the U.S. and abroad. Want to invite him to teach or speak? Email joverstreet@gmail.com.