REVIEW — “The Secret Life of Pets”
To quote Dr. Peter Venkman, “Dogs and cats, living together! Mass hysteria!”
The second animated film in as many weeks to feature the voice of Albert Brooks and unlicensed animals driving trucks, The Secret Life of Pets borrows heavily from the grandfather of modern-day animated buddy comedies (Toy Story), but to less memorable results.
Max (Louis C.K.) is the top dog in owner Katie’s (Ellie Kemper) life. He has a great group of animal friends (and even a secret admirer) in their NYC apartment building, but Max’s world is soon turned upside down when Katie brings home a large and shaggy rescue dog named Duke (Eric Stonestreet).
After Max’s botched attempt at ditching Duke backfires, the two dogs find themselves collarless and lost on the streets of New York. Alone and far from home, the odd couple of mutts have to work together to find their way back as they are pursued by their friends, angry dogcatchers and a group of wild, renegade animals called “The Flushed Pets” – led by the ruthless Snowball (Kevin Hart).
As Snowball, a maniacal former-magician’s bunny, Hart steals the show. Although he could probably provide the voice of a brick and make it entertaining, Hart’s trademark irritated, rapid-fire, stream-of-consciousness routine fits perfectly within the world of talking animals. Whenever he’s on-screen, it’s all about the bunny. If this film were to get a sequel, it would definitely revolve around Snowball.
Children will love this film and its adorable supporting characters voiced by a great cast of popular comedians (such as Lake Bell, Bobby Moynihan, Jenny Slate, Hannibal Buress, Steve Coogan and Dana Carvey). With this much talent lending their personalities to the pets, the film should have an abundance of laughs, but save for Hart’s Snowball, the jokes are few and far between.
Much like the attention span of a dog, the film is sporadic in its plotting – often unsure of which character to follow. However, pet owners will love the quirks and characteristics of their furry friends on full display and the film’s heartwarming ending will have them running home to greet their beloved, eagerly awaiting pets.
By revealing what our pets do when we aren’t around, the film indeed plays like an animal version of the adventures of Woody and Buzz. Unfortunately, due to pacing issues and an almost empty bowl of laughs, Illumination Entertainment’s adorably fluffy The Secret Life of Pets reminds why Pixar is cinema and everything else is cartoons. 3/5
Rated PG, The Secret Life of Pets opens in theaters July 8, 2016.