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.
Cast and crew
Average User Rating
3.7 / 5
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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!