American animation by the numbers. Certainly, hasn't the genre always been that way? But there's a lack of ambition in The Secret Life of Pets that betrays its unfortunate adherence to formula, its identity as a product merely of our times and not for our times, and its contentment with that. It's a cash-grab, made by people who likely know better, as evidenced by the simple fact that The Secret Life of Pets isn't a complete failure. It's intermittently funny, never intelligent, spoilt by ugly design though elevated by excellent application of Illumination Entertainment's animation skills. It remains a major disappointment to me, witnessing such superb technique wasted on such average visual concepts. To dismiss this as 'what the kids want' might seem appropriate, but it overlooks a sad, significant point: this is what the adults want too. People are stupid, and want stupid things; The Secret Life of Pets is a rather stupid thing tailor-made for a stupid audience. It's no less than adequate at any particular juncture, though given the amount of time, effort and money obviously poured into this project, adequacy alone becomes inadequate, and the more discerning viewer pines for something more substantial. If all that Illumination has ever before offered in that regard is mere sporadic inspiration on the comic front, surely it's not unreasonable to request it of them again? But this Toy Story rip-off only rarely hints at stepping up to answer this request, content instead to roll ever onward from one mediocre moment to another.