FROM the team behind the animated Despicable Me franchise, The Secret Life of Pets is the latest effort aimed at the same audience. An audience that lapped up Minions and their quirky sense of humour, it was popular with both children and adults; and The Secret life of Pets attempts to recreate that dual appeal.
As with many animated films, The Secret Life of Pets works on the concept of anthropomorphising non-human characters. In this case, like the recent Zootropolis, animals are the target – specifically, pets.
The plot sees terrier Max (Louis CK) falling out with Duke (Eric Stonestreet) – a rescue dog brought home one day by his owner Katie (Ellie Kemper). His jealousy leads to a bitter rivalry, which sees them caught by Animal Control to be shipped to the dog pound.
Caught up in an escape attempt when an animal gang led by an unhinged rabbit called Snowball (Kevin Hart) frees a cohort, Max and Duke become mixed up with the gang. They wind up in the gang’s underground lair in the New York sewer system. When Snowball discovers that Max and Duke aren’t the abandoned pets he thought they were, he vows revenge, and the dogs escape.
In the meantime, Gidget (Jenny Slate), a white Pomeranian with a crush on Max, has noticed that he’s missing and has mobilised the pets from Max’s apartment block, mounting a rescue mission. In the face of a greater menace, all sides eventually come together to help each other, promoting tolerance and healing rifts in the process.
Not as witty or original as the superior Zootropolis, The Secret life of Pets has more in common with last year’s Shaun The Sheep movie (there are plot similarities), although it certainly lacks the charm of the Aardman creation. Sharing a sense of humour with the Despicable Me films, there’s plenty of outlandish, strictly-for-kids laughs, however, with a smattering of humour that’s better thought-out and genuinely funny. Characters are, for the most part, fairly forgettable and they miss the idiosyncratic qualities of those in Pixar movies, which means that stretches of the film are long and tedious. With a good dose of silliness, it’s more puerile and less clever than, say, the Toy Story films. Snowball, the unpredictable sewer-dwelling bunny who despises domestication, is the film’s funniest character, and gets more hilarious as the film goes on. If this is to be a
franchise, as so many animated films go on to become, you’d hope that the sequel ditches the other characters to centre, instead, on the Kevin Hart-voiced creation.