The Secret Life of Pets
Dir: Yarrow Cheney, Chris Renaud
Starring: Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart, Jenny Slate, Ellie Kemper, Albert Brooks, Lake Bell, Dana Carvey, Hannibal Buress, and Bobby Moynihan
I once watched my family dog, Shadow, chase his own tail for nearly five minutes. Shadow would stop momentarily to watch the reactions from the family, we were all laughing loudly, and then continue with the same act. I’m still not sure who was more fascinated with the other; in hindsight Shadow was probably wondering how long the humans would watch his foolish behavior. “The Secret Life of Pets” is the newest animated feature to hit theaters this weekend, animal lovers will be thoroughly entertained but it will also provide sufficient amusement for children and offer a somewhat satisfying time-out for parents during these longer summer days.
Max (Louis C.K.) is a friendly terrier living the good life in a Manhattan apartment complex with his owner Katie (Ellie Kemper). Unfortunately Max’s life is turned upside down when Katie brings home a new dog, a stray mutt named Duke (Eric Stonestreet) who quickly makes himself comfortable in Max’s space. Things get further complicated when Max and Duke become lost in the big city. In order to find their way home the two unlikely partners must cooperate with a group of rogue animals led by an aggressive bunny named Snowball (Kevin Hart).
There is much to like about this film. The humor is especially good, a mix of silliness for the kiddos with a few targeted jokes just for the adults. Helping this aspect is the voice cast, mostly comedians, who each offer a little of their own brand of humor to make things interesting. In the lead is Louis C.K. as Max, while the comedian's brand of dark and painfully honest humor may be significantly subdued throughout this family film, the delivery and execution of the comedic material is very much Louis C.K. Another highlight comes in the form of Kevin Hart as the fluffy, frenzied bunny Snowball. Mr. Hart is unleashed throughout this film, seemingly given freedom to develop a joke and adlib material at will. Snowball many times in the film steals the show with a mix of cuteness and comedy.
It’s unfortunate that the story is many times a dull, reused list of ideas taken from other animated films. The well-developed characters support the “lost animals” story angle but there are times when the narrative operates at such a sluggish pace that nothing seems interesting. There are a few scenes that invigorate the story, like a right-of-passage ceremony orchestrated by the rogue pets involving a scary animal or a chase scene in the busy New York City streets, however the film never reaches the potential the premise invites. The secret enticed in the title has already been revealed, composed better in a film that was released just a few weeks ago “Finding Dory”.
I had the opportunity to watch this film with my 4-year-old and based on the laughing and excitement displayed during the screening it’s fairly easy to say that there is a high recommendation for this film from my little one. While there isn’t much to separate it from other films like it, the voice cast is exceptional and the laughs are enough to tolerate 90 minutes for an enjoyable summer cartoon escape.
3.00 out of 5.00