The Secret Life of Pets
Directed by: Chris Renaud
Written by: Cinco Paul & Ken Daurio and Brian Lynch and Simon Rich.
Starring: Louis C.K. (Max), Eric Stonestreet (Duke), Kevin Hart (Snowball), Jenny Slate (Gidget), Ellie Kemper (Katie), Albert Brooks (Tiberius), Lake Bell (Chloe), Dana Carvey (Pops), Hannibal Buress (Buddy), Bobby Moynihan (Mel), Chris Renaud (Norman), Steve Coogan (Ozone / Reginald), Michael Beattie (Tattoo), Sandra Echeverría (Maria), Jaime Camil (Fernando), Kiely Renaud (Molly).
The Secret Life of Pets has a great idea for an animated film – what do our pets do when we’re not around. Yes, that’s basically the plot of Toy Story, but with pets, not toys, but the idea holds – we leave our pets at home alone nearly all day, every day – so what the hell do they actually do (if my judge is representative of most animals, it appears that the answer is sleep – but I digress). It’s almost a shame that the film feels the need to take the pets out of their New York apartments, and put them on the streets, on an Incredible Journey like quest to find their way home. Most of the charm of the movie is just seeing the animals – voiced by an amazing voice cast – simply interacting with each other. The mechanics of the plot are familiar, and kind of dull – but I could listen to these actors riff on each other all day.
The story of the film is about Max (Louis CK), who is the beloved dog of Katie (Ellie Kemper) – who isn’t happy when she brings a new dog, Duke (Eric Stonestreet) home. The two at first hate each other, but when they get lost in the city, and have to find their way home – while trying to dodge a psycho bunny (Kevin Hart) and his crew, they end up bonding. Meanwhile, their friends from the apartment building are also trying to find them (Jesus, this really is Toy Story with pets, isn’t it).
The film is well cast, which is why it works. CK and Stonestreet work well together - and Hart, even if he’s essentially playing himself as a bunny, is wonderful. I almost preferred the rest of the supporting cast though – led by Jenny Slate, as a poodle in love with Max, and especially Albert Brooks, who may not have been my first choice to play a slightly wacked falcon, but ends up being the best.
The film is by Illumination, the studio responsible for the Despicable Me and Minions movies. They aren’t at the level of Pixar or Disney yet – not even close really – they lack any real ambition to make something other than an entertaining time waster for children – but they can at least rival Dreamworks and Blue Sky as a second tier studio.