Pets United is a Netflix Original. Roger is a stray dog surviving on the streets of Robo City. A city that prides itself on it’s perfection. Needless to say, out of place things like Roger aren’t not looked kindly upon. Roger soon finds himself thrust into an adventure when the city gets turned upside down, and he is forced to work together with some pampered pets, and one discontinued emobot named Bob.
When talking about movie-making it is not uncommon for people to talk about a formula. Like movies have a recipe that if followed, will result in an enjoyable movie-going experience. If only it were so simple. Pets United feels like it was created by people trying to stick to that formula. On paper, it checks all the boxes you would expect from a kid-targeted animated movie. Cute protagonists? Check. Musical numbers? Check. A story about individuals from different walks of life coming together to overcome impossible odds? Check. Yup, this seems like a winner. So what goes wrong? Turns out a lot can go wrong, even if the boxes are all checked. Let’s start with a look at the plot.
While Pets United seems to tell a story about friendship and coming together, these themes end up ringing a bit hollow. The reason for this is simple. There is an incredible lack of empathy in this story. Which is awkward because it tries to pass itself off as empathetic, but fails horribly for a big reason. No one in this story cares until they are forced into the situation of someone else. Let’s use Roger as an example.
At the movie’s opening Roger is shunned by everyone. He is a stray. As such he is subjected to ridicule and abuse. Not that Roger choose to be a stray, but no one cares about his circumstances. He is simply viewed as less than everyone else and treated as such.
Midway through Pets United’s story, several pets find themselves separated from their masters and are now also strays. Suddenly, everyone likes Roger and are all too glad to accept his help. The movie treats this like the animals have realized that, despite being a stray, Roger has value. And he should be liked. What it actually comes across as is, we need you so now we are going to use you. And while, of course, everyone becomes friends by the end of the movie, the fact that no one can get over differences till they have no other choice makes the entire narrative ring hollow. Especially since this isn’t the only time in the movie this theme plays out.
Another place where Pets United stumbles, hard, is its incorporation of music. It’s awful. It’s forced. And it delivers one of the most painful excuses for rapping I’ve ever heard. And it does this terrible rap twice. Like someone realized there was no singing in their kid’s movie and couldn’t let that slide. The movie would have been much better served without the songs.
Lastly, we have humor. Well, the attempt at humor. Not once during this movie did I so much as chuckle. The jokes are just bad. And not even the corny-but-I-can-see-a-child-getting-a-chuckle sort of bad. The worst Pets United’s humor gets is when some of the pet’s body shame another animal for their size. While this was the only moment that was delivered in bad taste, none of the rest was much funnier. And while the story and humor here are bad, the visuals, while stronger, aren’t nearly enough to redeem the film. They deliver cute characters and some smooth adventure sequences but are nothing really to write home about.
All in all, I can honestly say Pets United is one of the worst things I’ve seen this year. It fails at being meaningful. It fails at being funny. And simply tried too hard to tick all the boxes, without delivering any energy or soul into the final product. Even if your kids have watched all the beloved animated films in your collection to death, there is still has to be something better to put on than this.
Pets United is currently streaming on Netflix.
I can honestly say Pets United is one of the worst things I’ve seen this year. It fails at being meaningful. It fails at being funny. And simply tried too hard to tick all the boxes, without delivering any energy or soul into the final product. Even if your kids have watched all the beloved animated films in your collection to death, there is still has to be something better to put on than this.