#REVIEW: THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS”
Review by Siobhán Rich for Mr. Will Wong
Dogs are people too. And so, for that matter, are cats, fish, rabbits, snakes, and birds. In fact, when their humans aren’t around these animals are more like people than you’d think: they have unrequited crushes, suffer separation anxiety, and have dreams greater than the cages they inhabit.
Max (Louis C.K.) is the self-described “luckiest dog in New York City.” Ever since his human, Katie (Ellie Kemper), adopted him life has been a bowl of treats. Until one day Katie brings home a new addition to the family: Duke (Eric Stonestreet). The two dogs resist the idea of being brothers from the first sniff and immediately begin to challenge each other for alpha dog status. The mutual bullying results in the pair being separated from their friends and they must team up to fight their way home. Along the way, the mismatched pair cross paths with collar-eating alley cats and The Flushed Pets – a gang of abandoned pets led by the adorable but combative former magician’s rabbit, Snowball (Kevin Hart).
Thankfully, Max has friends back home in his building that are willing to go to any length to bring him home. Gidget (Jenny Slate) lives across the alley from Max in the building next door and is the first to realize her crush is missing. She quickly rounds up the Chloe (Lake Bell), Tiberius (Albert Brooks), Buddy, Sweetpea and Mel and for a rescue mission that will take the furry and feathered friends across on a whirlwind trip across New York.
Ken Daurio, Brian Lunch and Cinco Paul’s script borrows heavily from numerous familiar sources. Rest assured, however, that the Despicable Me team knows their audience and does their best to avoid underestimating their young target audience. Under the direction of Chris Renaud and Yarrow Cheney, the Movie struggles to stay fresh while leaning heavily on its cast to enliven otherwise flat scenes.
In many animated features the audience is constantly reminded of the humans behind the animation rather than letting the characters stand on their own four paws. The voice cast in Secret Life do an exceptional job of breathing life into their characters without trying to turn them into garish self-caricatures.
One of the most important characters in The Secret Life of Pets is New York City. Introduced in the opening montage accompanied by Taylor Swift’s Welcome to New York, the city is as lovingly animated as its furry denizens. 3D is used here to its best advantage as audiences fly over the pet-friendly city, from its snake-guarded sewers to the crystal blue waters that surround it, no aspect of the Big Apple is given short shrift.
In a year rife with exceptional Animated Features, The Secret Life of Pets may not immediately seem like a contender despite the great animation and fantastic performances by the voice cast. The familiar storyline and fun anthropomorphic characters are guaranteed to keep audiences entertained. Kid are sure to love The Secret Life of Pets the way Max loves Katie.
Universal Pictures Canada release THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS on Friday, July 8, 2016.