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The Secret Life of Pets
  • Composed by Alexandre Desplat
  • Back Lot Music / 2016 / 52m

Cats, dogs, their battles against humans etc form the basis of The Secret Life of Pets, an animation with an impressive voice cast led by Louis C.K. and directed by Despicable Me‘s Chris Renaud.  It’s got good reviews and looks set to be very successful.  Alexandre Desplat’s varied career includes a few animations now, but it’s always a bit of a surprise seeing his name attached to things like this.  This score is itself very varied, ranging from jazz and big band through to more conventional orchestral animated scoring, with influences ranging from Henry Mancini to Randy Newman and an overall feeling of John Powell.  A lot of these ideas are presented very briefly, as can be the case with animations (there are no fewer than 16 tracks which run under two minutes) – Desplat himself has managed to do great things in such situations (particularly his Wes Anderson films) but despite the overwhelmingly positive reception the score seems to have received, I find it harder to really feel a connection with it than with those scores, such is its piecemeal nature.  Which is not to say it’s bad, not by any means; but don’t expect either the micro-witticisms of the Anderson scores or the fluid action/adventure of Rise of the Guardians.

There’s no doubting just how well-composed the music is.  The big band opening, “Meet the Pets”, is an absolute delight – light, fluffy, a great tune.  A heartfelt flute solo near the end of “Meet Duke” is the score’s most touching moment (but only lasts for a few seconds); I love the flamenco opening 40 seconds to “Telenovela Squirrels” (but it’s only 40 seconds!); “Hijack!” is beautifully Manciniesque, so too “You Have an Owner?” with quite delightful flutes and an insanely catchy little tune; “Initiation Time” actually brings back memories of the composer’s superb Godzilla; “Captured” is a great action piece, leading into “Brooklyn Bridge Showdown” which at times gets very close to the style of Randy Newman’s Pixar scores (and others – the synths – doesn’t) and then “Rescuing Duke”, which is just pure Toy Story.  So, with all this great stuff, you’d think it would make a great album, but it doesn’t – not really.  It’s too bitty, if anything there’s just too much going on, not enough time to savour any of it.  It’s entertaining enough with some really nice highlights, technically it’s beyond reproach, and it probably works wonders within the film; as an album, I’d say it’s just OK.

Rating: *** | |

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  1. Momo (Reply) on Saturday 16 July, 2016 at 04:40

    Didn’t speak to me very much, either (but for whatever reason I often have a hard time appreciating Desplat as much as I’m sure he deserves).

    Eager to hear what you think of The BFG 🙂

  2. Romola Garai (Reply) on Sunday 4 September, 2016 at 15:27

    Thanks for review. Trailer is definitely very promising and I don’t think the movie quite lived up to it. I think it’s still worth a rental though, but yeah not as good as Zootopia or most of Pixar’s movies.