Movie Review: The Secret Life of Pets

Photo Credit: Illumination Entertainment

Finding out what our pets do while we are away may actually be a boring experience. I’m thinking a little bit of eating, maybe some pacing, and a bunch of sleeping is what we would see. Just don’t repeat that to The Secret Life of Pets, an adventurous animated movie with splendid characters, cherishing what makes animals our best friends and so damn adorable. Animal lovers rejoice. This one is for you.

Directors Chris Renaud and Yarrow Cheney let their sprightly tale off the leash with celerity, never taking a water break. Max (Louis C.K.) is boisterous and enjoying the good life with his owner Katie (Ellie Kemper) in the big city of Manhattan. In their extremely pet-friendly building, animals are running wild when there’s no supervision. From playing video games, rocking out to some tunes, or cleaning out the fridge, they flip the switch from cuteness to contriving as soon as the door shuts.

Max is the protector and master of his domain. That is until a wooly monster named Duke (Eric Stonestreet) physically shakes up his life after Katie surprises him with a brother. Her big heart could be Max’s demise. As each of them try to bully the other, Max and Duke’s rivalry escalates to the point where they find themselves lost on the streets of New York. No collars with Animal Control chasing their tails, the incompatible roomies will find out what survival is all about.

Thank goodness for Gidget (Jenny Slate), an elegant white Eskimo dog who cannot lose Max, the love of her life. As she leads a search-and-rescue mission, a fervent, vindictive rabbit named Snowball (scene-stealing Kevin Hart) has been planning a revolution on behalf of all whom have been abandoned. Enemies must become allies in order to find their way home while carefully keeping their paws out of the rabid war brewing in the streets.

Renaud and Cheney innocently solve a century long mystery of what animals sustain and tolerate while we are out. The observations and characteristics that we all fall for from our pets are on point, melting our hearts repeatedly. And come to find out, they’re a lot like us. Who knew! There’s a sense of avidness to be found within the zaniness of this canine caper, but ferocious and moving it is not. This is why Illumination (the studio responsible for the Despicable Me franchise and Minions) isn’t held in the same regard as Pixar and Dreamworks.

The Secret Life of Pets is harmless fun by playing it safe for kids; but missing is that emotional sting where no matter your age, it resonates deep inside your soul. May sound silly, but animated films are highly capable of doing precisely that. A few instantly come to mind. Spoiler alert: The Secret Life of Pets isn’t one of them.