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The Secret Life Of Pets Review

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Taking a break from taking over the world with the yellow skinned, gibberish spouting Minions, animation studio Illumination Entertainment and Despicable Me director Chris Renaud dive deep into the more grounded, yet no less chaotic world of our four legged (and feathered and scaly and fluffy) friends with The Secret Life of Pets, asking that age old question: what do our pets get up to when we leave for work? While Assembling a voice cast of some of the finest comedians working today, the focus here is on Louis C.K.’s Max, a terrier who has a scarily dependent relationship with his owner Katie, so much so that the opening monologue where Max describes the relationship sounds exactly like something you would find in a romantic comedy just before our hapless hero/heroine is dumped. Max’s life is thrown into disarray when Katie brings gigantic, slovenly mongrel Duke (Modern Family’s Eric Stonestreet) home from the pound. When the two’s bickering results in them being lost in New York City, they must team up to get back home.


You may have noticed that the above synopsis read exactly like Toy Story, and that is no coincidence, with the story of The Secret Life of Pets feeling like it’s frankensteining various elements from all three movies in the beloved franchise into one movie. Duke and Max’s interactions have shades of Buzz and Woody’s initial relationship, the duo's friends go on an adventure to save them a la Toy Story 2, and Kevin Hart’s human hating bunny Snowball is basically Lotso Huggin’ Bear. But Illumination is no Pixar, and they can’t really find the right balance between heart and humour. That’s not to say that the heart isn’t there, with one moment involving Duke’s old owner that will definitely have you pretending there is something in your eye, but these moments feel more like brief interludes in between all the slapstick and one liners. Maybe we’ve been spoiled lately by a constant stream of animated movies that played perfectly to both sides of the audience, but it’s all about the kiddies here, and on that level it works.

That’s not to say there isn’t a lot to like about The Secret Life of Pets, as it goes above and beyond to keep the audience’s reaction at a constant chuckle. The humour and vibrant colour palette is reminiscent of the studios other movies, and the animation is chock full of neat little details from the pets' plentiful facial expressions giving them a endearingly human quality to background elements referencing everything from Hitchcock and upcoming Illumination offering, Sing. There is great fun to be had with the characters from Lake Bell’s sarcastic tabby cat Chloe (whose the centre of the movies best gag skewering the Internet’s obsession with cat videos) to Snowball, with Hart pretty much stealing the show as the psychotic ex-magician's prop. The supporting cast, including Albert Brooks and Bobby Moynihan, do such a great job that C.K. and Stonestreet kind of pale in comparison, tasked with playing it straight and not really exploiting the concept to its fullest.

Make no mistake, the kids will lap this up, and the dog lovers among you will find a special place in their hearts for it. The rest of the audience will be entertained, but may be left wanting something a tad deeper.






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The Movie Bit: The Secret Life Of Pets Review
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