Let’s get one thing straight: there isn’t anything in this new animated movie from the folks who brought you Minions and Despicable Me that you haven’t already seen. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a hilarious film.
Much like Toy Story, The Secret Life of Pets tells that story of a group of pets in New York and what happens when their owners leave for work. Max, voiced by Louis C.K., is spoiled dog who has a good thing going with his owner, Katie. All around his high-rise apartment are the other assorted characters: Gidget (who secretly loves Max), Mel (pug who more like the Tasmanian Devil than a dog), Chloe (a fat cat who steals almost every scene she’s in), and Sweet Pea, a small parakeet reminiscent of Tweety Bird. They all live their respective lives and the opening minutes are what normal is for them. You’ve seen this in most of the trailers. The funniest being Chloe’s failed attempts not to eat a roasted chicken. This was much funnier in the movie because it went on longer. My favorite from the trailer and the movie is still the white poodle whose owner loves classical music and, as soon as the owner leaves, the dog turns on heavy metal.
Max’s problems begin with Katie bring home Duke, a massive brown dog. Suddenly Max (i.e., Woody from Toy Story) has a rival for Katie’s affections in Duke (i.e., Buzz Lightyear). And, just like Toy Story, the two dogs end up getting lost when a dog walker loses track of them. Now, you’ve got dual story lines. On the one hand, Max and Duke have got to figure out how to get home while Gidget rallies her troops, with the help of Tiberius, a pet hawk, voiced by Albert Brooks (he’s having a great summer with Finding Dory still in theaters).
Max and Duke run into Snowball the bunny and his gang of abandoned pets. Kevin Hart voices Snowball and man is he hilarious. This was, I think, my first Hart film and he delivers in spades. Everything in this film is at eleven and Hart is often edging up to twelve. The gang has the appropriate number of scary animals that the domesticated Max finds frightening. Gidget’s efforts are also pretty darn funny, especially when they meet Pops, an old basset hound with paralyzed back legs that are affixed to a little cart. Their efforts to find Max even included an old-fashioned construction/crane scene that you found in Chuck Jones’s versions of Tom and Jerry.
The soundtrack is fantastic! It’s a jazz-inspired score by Alexandre Desplat. He won an Oscar for The Grand Budapest Hotel. If you love 1960s-era film scores or modern film scores in that vein (i.e., The Incredibles), then this is right up your alley. The LP is available on Spotify if you’re interested. Yeah, I’m listening now. 😉
All in all, The Secret Life of Pets is a hilarious film and well worth the trip to the cinema. The theater was mostly packed with families and children and all laughed and had a good time. There’s a little tag ending after the main credits so be sure to stay for that. It was funny to watch all the folks already filing out to stop dead in their tracks and watch it.