The creative team behind Despicable Me brings us something a little different than their usual minions. This time they take to the streets of Manhattan to show us what mischief pets get up to when their owners are away in The Secret Life of Pets.
Max’s (Louis C.K) idyllic life is thrown into chaos when his owner brings home a stray, Duke (Eric Stonestreet). As both dogs battle for dominance things get out of hand, and they soon find themselves lost in New York, and on the run from a bunch of dangerous revolutionaries under the command of insane rabbit (Kevin Hart). The dogs only hope may lie in a rescue effort from their apartment block, as Max’s friends are gathered into a search group by his secret admirer, Gidget (Jenny Slate).
There is a constant manic energy about this film that is rather infectious, from its wonderfully beginning compilation of pets left to their own devices to its adrenaline filled climax. The whole film plays like an extended Looney Tunes cartoon, complete with an idealised Manhattan bathed in Gershwin tunes and secret transportation routes provided by complex Rube Goldberg machines. As such you can never get bored with The Secret Life of Pets, because it always gives you something new and interesting to compete for your attention during its relatively short runtime.
Foremost of these is Kevin Hart’s manically murderous bunny. Extensively the villain of the piece, Snowball is the perfect excuse for Hart to cut loose and be full on ruthlessly crazy. By contrast Louis CK and Stonestreet’s performances almost get lost in the shuffling between the various groups, but are solid in a low key sort of way, providing the emotional backbone for the story. Jenny Slate does a great job staking the middle ground, running between love lorn lapdog and aggressive crazy, balancing the groups, and providing the linchpin for the search group to find Max.
If there is a complaint about Pets, it is that we’ve pretty much seen this all before. It’s enjoyable and competently handled, but really doesn’t seem to bring anything new to the equation. As such it will likely play better to a younger crowd, wowing with its bright palette, fast pacing and loud humour. There is not much depth here, but it is light and enjoyable none the less.
Colourful, energetic, and fast paced, The Secret Life Of Pets is good family entertainment.