Taking place in a Manhattan apartment building, Max’s life as a favorite pet is turned upside down, when his owner brings home a sloppy mongrel named Duke. They have to put their quarrels behind when they find out that an adorable white bunny named Snowball is building an army of lost pets determined to take revenge
‘The Secret Life of Pets’ is the latest animated film from Illumination Entertainment, a film aimed at kids that imagines what family pets get up to during the day when their owners are at work/school etc and they’re left to their own devices. There’s an element of ‘Toy Story’ or ‘Wreck It-Ralph’ in the idea of the pets ‘coming to life’ when left alone, and the filmmakers have crafted an enjoyable caper out of the material and kids will find plenty to enjoy here.
The main protagonist is a Jack Russell Terrier, Max (voiced by Louis C.K.), a pampered dog who regularly gets together during the day with a series of other pets in the apartment block. His cosy existence is threatened by the arrival of Duke (voiced by Eric Stonestreet), a mongrel who his owner has brought home from the dog pound. On a dog walking trip one day, both Max and Duke get separated from the rest of the dogs, ending up in a battle to escape from animal control and an unruly gang of abandoned pets who inhabit the sewers and are led by a vicious bunny rabbit (voiced by Kevin Hart).
The film is pretty funny and it’s smart and savvy about the stereotypes and character traits for the different types of animals featured, although I do feel there were missed opportunities for some sharper comedy to particularly engage the adult element of the audience. That being said, this is a kids film and there’s plenty enjoyment to be had from the fun characters to the bright and colourful animation that brings New York to life. The film spends a lot of time developing the relationship between Max and Duke, who go from antagonists to friends as they bond over their situation, although a key emotional moment is delivered poorly after some strong setup. Louis C.K. and Eric Stonestreet have a good camaraderie and the buddy comedy elements of the script get a lot of mileage out of those two performers.
‘The Secret Life of Pets’ may lack the subtlety or sharpness to rise above the expected kids animation beats, but this is a fun movie with an enjoyable script and colourful characters, and if you’ve got kids you can do a lot worse than going to see it.
Directed By: Chris Renaud and Yarrow Cheney
Starring: Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart, Jenny Slate, Steve Coogan, Ellie Kemper, Bobby Moynihan, Lake Bell, Dana Carvey, Hannibal Buress and Albert Brooks