Animation Comedy

'The Secret Life of Pets' Film Review: The truth about cats, dogs and bunny rabbits too

July 8, 2016Ben MK

There was a time when Disney/Pixar was the only game in Tinsel Town when it came to quality animated films (computer-animation or otherwise). However, a lot has changed in the past two decades, and with the proliferation of studios like Dreamworks Animation, Laika Entertainment and Illumination Entertainment, moviegoers' choices now seem to stretch to infinity and beyond.

Case in point: The Secret Life of Pets, a film that embodies an inherently Disney-esque approach to its storytelling, but which comes from directors Chris Renaud and Yarrow Cheney, the filmmakers behind both Despicable Me movies. With a star-studded (and extremely adult-friendly) voice cast that includes the likes of Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, Ellie Kemper, Kevin Hart, Albert Brooks, Jenny Slate, Lake Bell and Hannibal Buress, The Secret Life of Pets attempts to answer the burning question — Just what do our pets do when we're not around?

The answer — it would seem — is whatever the heck they please, as we learn during a delightful early sequence that gives audiences a glimpse at all the wacky vices our pets love to indulge in while we're away, from eating a whole baked turkey straight out of the fridge and using an electric mixer as a back-scratcher, to scurrying through air vents, urinating in planters and rocking out to heavy metal music. Plus, if you've ever wondered what would ever happen if our canine pals got free rein inside a sausage factory, well, the movie has that covered too.

As for the film's plot, it has to do with a New York City terrier named Max (Louis C.K.), who finds his relationship with his owner Katie (Kemper) threatened when she brings a giant, shaggy stray named Duke (Stonestreet) home from the pound. Max and Duke end up bonding, of course, as they try to find their way back to Katie's, after a simple dog walk leads to them losing their collars, being captured by animal control, and then falling into the company of a malevolent, sewer-dwelling gang of "flushed pets," led by a bloodthirsty bunny rabbit named Snowball (Hart).

Meanwhile, across the street from Katie's apartment, a feisty pomeranian named Gidget (Slate), who also happens to harbor a not-so-secret crush on him, has figured out that Max has gone missing. And so she gathers Max's friends — Mel the pug (Bobby Moynihan), Buddy the wiener dog (Buress), fat cat Chloe (Bell), Norman the guinea pig (Renaud) and Sweetpea the budgie — and together with a domesticated hawk named Tiberius (Brooks), they set out in search of Max and Duke, enlisting the help of a wise, old basset hound named Pops (Dana Carvey) along the way.

The result is exactly what you might expect, which is to say that while The Secret Life of Pets is heartwarming, hilarious and absolutely gorgeous to look at, it also won't win points for originality, with the script by Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio and Brian Lynch drawing obvious inspiration from Pixar's Toy Story, with shades of Monsters Inc. thrown in for good measure. That being said, The Secret Life of Pets is simply too cute not to fall in love with, especially if you're still riding the high from Disney's Zootopia, or are just an animal lover in general.

The Secret Life of Pets releases July 8th, 2016 from Universal Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG for action and some rude humor. Its runtime is 1 Hr. 31 Mins.

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