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The Secret Life of Pets is a new film from Illumination Entertainment, the company who brought you the Despicable Me films and Minions, that is a non-stop ball of energy from beginning to end. The theme of the trailer shows how pets play when the owners go away, but the film itself tells the story of what happens when humans are completely irresponsible with their pets and that story is not quite as fun to watch.
Max (Louis C.K.) is terrier who has a great relationship with his owner Katie (Ellie Kemper), and spends his days waiting for her to come home from work. There are a bunch of other pets in the building who he interacts with that include Max’s not so secret admirer Gidget (a cute performance by Jenny Slate), and fat cat Chloe (Lake Bell). One day, Katie brings home rescue dog Duke (Eric Stonestreet). Not surprisingly, Duke and Max do not hit off, and they immediately begin competing for control of the household.
When Max and Duke are on their daily outing with then dog walker their peeing contest continues, resulting in both Duke and Max losing their collars, and being captured by animal control. It is at this point Max and Duke must find their way back home and learn to work together in the process.
From the trailer, the movie seemed like it was going to be about the hi-jinks pets ensue at home on a regular basis when their owners are not around. This is not what this movie is about. This should have been renamed “A Pet’s Guide to Survival in New York” because the main theme is not about cute pets having a fun adventures; it’s about pets avoiding death at every turn while running around unsupervised in New York. As far as the Pets portion of the movie title, the only two pets who have any kind of relationship is Max and Duke, and for most of the movie it’s a bad one. Max does not seem to like the other pets in the building who risk their lives to save him, and even they have to be reminded by Gidget why they like Max in the first place.
There are also a ton of extra characters (aka celebrity voices). One is a rabbit named Snowball (voiced by a loud Kevin Hart) who attempts to torture the dogs and follow them to Brooklyn when they get away. Another is a hawk named Tiberius (Albert Brooks) who Gidget enlists as a resource to help find Max. Neither one of these characters, along with a couple of others, are necessary to further the plot and quite frankly not funny.
The highlight of this movie for me was Jenny Slate’s performance as Gidget. Gidget actually has a purpose and she went into action. Unlike some of the other characters it actually seemed like Jenny Slate was performing, not making it aware that her voice is featured in this movie.
Kids will be happy with The Secret Life of Pets. Its energetic, the pets are well animated, and there are enough slapstick moments to keep them satisfied. But unlike recent outings such as Zootopia, its going to have a little trouble impressing the adults. Unfortunately for The Secret Life of Pets, the pets become secondary characters in their own movie.