The Secret Life of Pets

Film, Animation
3 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars
(11user reviews)
The Secret Life of Pets

This animated animal adventure lacks a touch of Pixar sparkle

The hilarious start of this cartoon from the ‘Despicable Me’ team feels lifted from one of those pets-do-the-funniest-things montages on YouTube. Front-loading the best bits, ‘The Secret Life of Pets’ begins by imagining what the animals in a New York apartment block get up to when their owners shut the door in the morning. A handsome poodle named Leonard switches on the stereo so he can headbang to hard rock. A puffy little white Pomeranian swoons in front of daytime soaps. A sausage dog gives himself a back rub with a food blender. And mongrel Max (voiced by comedian Louis CK) loyally waits by the door for his human to come home.

So far, so Pixar. But things get more conventional when Max’s owner brings home an addition to the family – a slobbering rescue dog called Duke. It’s not long before the two mutts are lost in the city, falling foul of a gang of animals rejected by their owners and reduced to living in the sewers. The gang’s leader is an adorable evildoing bunny called Snowball – as villains go he feels a bit try-hard (and not nearly as twisted as teddy bear Lots-O’-Huggin in ‘Toy Story 3’).

There are some funny-sweet observations about pets and our projections on to them. And the animation is expressive (though cat Chloe is not nearly cold-hearted and sociopathic enough for a mog). But the manic pace, piling on the action sequences, is exhausting. Still, what a savvy, stroke-of-genius idea for a film this is. In cities like London, New York and Shanghai, where spiralling property prices have created Generation Rent, pet ownership is declining. We need to get our animal fix somewhere.

By: Cath Clarke

Posted:

Release details

Release date: Friday June 24 2016
Duration: 90 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Chris Renaud, Yarrow Cheney
Screenwriter: Ken Daurio, Cinco Paul, Brian Lynch
Cast: Ellie Kemper
Kevin Hart
Lake Bell
Louis C.K.
Jenny Slate

Average User Rating

3.7 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:2
  • 4 star:6
  • 3 star:1
  • 2 star:2
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|11
1 person listening
tastemaker

Sooo disappointed. I re-watched the trailer so many times so excited for this movie to come out, maybe I put too much pressure on it.  It wasn't witty as you would expect, the story was average and the animation was standard. 


really just not happy with it and I love all animated movies. 

Tastemaker

Watching this with my brother, his wife and their dog, I would say that the dog enjoyed it the most. For us humans, it was a disappointment. Whilst the concept is great and there were moments of hilarity (such as the dog getting a back scratch from a food mixer and the posh poodle rocking out to heavy metal), the story lacked the real wit we have come to expect from animated films.

I would say that children would thoroughly enjoy this, but, whereas films like Toy Story also speak to an adult audience, I don't feel this one really does. I also felt that the fantasy was taken way too far. Of course, it's not supposed to be reality, however the story of the underground network of animals abandoned by humans reached epic proportions and I found myself tuning out watching the ridiculous escapes. Forgettable and dull.

Tastemaker

I've waited years for this, since the trailer first came out! I really enjoyed it, and would recommend this to people, but I do have one issue - with films like this, when a storyline is added, it sometimes becomes not quite as funny - it would be better in a Ricky Gervais Creature Comforts type film/show, than with a storyline.

Tastemaker

I've been looking forward to this film since I saw the trailer, and it did not disappoint.  As the title indicates, the story is about what pets get up to whilst their owners are out.  It is a bit like a mammal version of finding Nemo at times.  The characters are all good and it is a feel-good film for you to sit back and enjoy.  It makes me want to set up a webcam to see what my cats get up to whilst I am out (probably not much!)

Tastemaker

My partner and I saw the trailer for this film a while ago and decided to go. Although the film is mainly targeted towards kids there were some laugh out moments for adults. I wouldn’t rate it as highly as a Pixar film but if you like similar films such as Ice Age and the Minions then this film will be right up your street.

moderatortastemaker

This was such a cute a movie! It was a great feel good movie, perfect for kids and also adults. I think we all wonder what our pets do while we are away, so this is a fun a movie to see. Perfect for all dog lovers!


An easy to watch Illumination animation with all the heart of Finding Nemo but less of the heart breaking angst of recent kids films. This relentlessly upbeat film was not exactly what I expected from the trailers, but it's charm and moral stories made it a lovely and warm kids film. The characters were lovable, even Kevin Hart's villain character made the audience grin from ear to ear. Definitely worth a watch, especially for dog lovers like me!

tastemaker

Funny, charming and with really cute animation made this film enjoyable. Gangster bunny made me laugh out loud and the story was fast paced to keep me entertained.

One to watch while we wait for Finding Dory!

Tastemaker

Finally a Disney/Pixar creation that delivers the fun, doom-and-gloom-free entertainment it should! A nice concept for a kids film which focusses on what pets get up to when their owners leave for the day – from a lovable dog with a penchant for trashy daytime soaps to a head-banging poodle and a suitably stuck up cat who makes a beeline for the roast chicken! The rest of the movie features an exciting jaunt through New York where they meet other “Wild” pets such as the fabulous Snowball bunny and even a crocodile! No death of a spouse or deep messages in sight… Just an entertaining, cute film for the little ones.

Tastemaker

‘Toy Story’ shared with us what our toys got up to when we left the room and picking up on that theme, ‘Secret Life of Pets’ reveals to us the lives our pets inhabit when we close the door on them each morning and trot off to work. From the studio who gave us the Minions – a fact I will always be fervently grateful for – comes a film that ranks high on the cute factor and super high on the feel-good factor.


Book-ended by brilliant montages of the pets of New York City as they are bade farewell and then hugged hello to, this film introduces us to Max, a lovable mongrel whose cosy life with his human Katie is thrown into turmoil when she brings home Duke, an elephant sized furball to share the apartment with. Escaping from a dog walk one day, we follow Max & Duke on their journey home as they’re assisted by a motley crew of dogs, cats, hamsters and birds all of whom help them avoid the clutches of the world’s most streetwise bunny, a tattooed pot-belly and a van-driving gecko.


The best things here come from Kevin Hart’s Snowball, a rabbit with a nice line in carrot key carpentry whose legions of ‘flushed pets’ fill the sewers, Lake Bell’s Chloe, the cat in whom I saw my own always-hungry-self alarmingly reflected back at me, and Steve Coogan’s vaguely terrifying but ultimately hysterical flea-bitten moggy Ozone. Depending what animals you grew up with, you’ll find your favourite on screen here – there’s no pug in the world I won’t ever find ridiculously entertaining – and some are definitely more entertaining than others; even charming animation fails to make eight legged arachnids cute.


The animation is fantastic and you can see how much research the cast & crew did on specific animal traits and although it's rated a ‘U’, there is a scene that might disturb anyone (big or small) who’s wary of snakes. Keep an eye out for a sausage factory scene that will forever change the way you view a wiener!


I loved the relationships depicted between the pets and their owners and if you’re living in a city at the moment where space & time prevents you from having a furry companion of your own, this will twinge at your heart and make you desperate to pat anything on a lead in the street afterwards. The script is smartly written if not quite as funny or adult-centric as the recent ‘Zootropolis’ and while ‘Minions’ still takes the gold in terms of tears-rolling-down-the-cheek hilarity, ‘Pets’ holds a very respectable silver. 

tastemaker

Answering that eternal question: What do our pets get up to when we’re at work?


The answer is lots of adventures that are slightly too reminiscent of Toy Story. One is about what toys get up to whilst humans are away, the latter film is about what pets get up to whilst humans are away.The love-hate dynamics of the central duo were not necessarily invented by Pixar (there’s about 100 years of cinema prior that utilises the trope at various points!) but there are lots of similarities between Max & Woody and Duke & Buzz. Both Max & Woody have spoiled lifestyles being the centre of attention of their owners. Duke & Buzz are both the invaders of the aforementioned comfortable lifestyle. There’s a clash between resident and newcomer which leads to them being far from home, they are kidnapped by an evil-doer and must unite to get back home.


This wouldn’t be too problematic if The Secret Life of Pets put a fresh take on it, but it doesn’t. Some of the gags and plot-points are overly familiar, with the film drifting from scene to scene without any sense of urgency. The film opens well, if with a sequence that has become far too familiar courtesy of the trailers which have been showing for the past year, yet becomes worn-out rather quickly. The film has a weird blend of realistic and pantomime, the later accelerates as the film rushes to its climax, never finding the balance and never sitting quite right.


The film looks brilliant, has some funny moments and some lovely characters. It’s not particularly original but will more than entertain most of the family.