Review: The Secret Life of Pets
You’d be hard pressed to find someone who isn’t passionate about their pet. We, for example, love our cat Heidi. Sure she ignores us most of the time (as cats are wont to do), but she’s stunningly beautiful, incredibly intelligent, singlehandedly exterminates all bugs that enter our apartment, and did we mention that she’s photogenically gorgeous? She’s also crazily playful one moment, then cool and collected the next. Much like our love Heidi, The Secret Life of Pets takes its manic pacing and cranks it up to 11. But hey, why squabble over such a detail when the characters on screen are just so darn adorable?! Little tykes will be enthralled for its entire running time and adults will smile over the film’s self-congratulatory message that all animals just want to be domesticated and loved.
Comedian Louis C.K. voices Max, the epitome of a “good dog”, whose otherwise dull existence of sitting and waiting around for his owner Katie (Ellie Kemper, yet another comedian in a voice cast brimming with them) to return home from work is disrupted when she brings into the fold another addition-shaggy dog Duke (voiced by Modern Family‘s Eric Stonestreet). Immediately the two are at odds with each other and a squabble in the park leads to them being separated from their ragtag group of friends (including wiener dog Buddy, voiced by Hannibal Buress). Their only hope on the dangerous streets of New York are the “anti-owner” gang, led by the misleadingly cute bunny Snowball (voiced by Kevin Hart, in what is arguably his best and most likable performance). Meanwhile, hopeless romantic lap dog Gidget (voiced by Jenny Slate, who also voiced Bellweather in Zootopia) enlists the help of neighborhood pets (among others, Chloe, a stereotypical pompous cat voiced by Lake Bell, and treacherous hawk Tiberius, voiced by Finding Dory‘s Albert Brooks) to find her unrequited love Max.
Sound familiar? Yes, this is Toy Story with a dash of Oliver and Company (kudos to composer Alexandre Desplat for his jazzy Giacchino-esque score, the only excitingly original aspect of the film). Again, who cares when all the animals are so delightfully cute. Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment’s partnerships in the past (including the Despicable Me films and the upcoming Sing, all of which are alluded to in this film) were weak narratively, yet they were all box office cash cows and merchandising machines. The Secret Life of Pets will follow suit. We’re already lining up to purchase Gidget and Snowball toys for Heidi.