The Secret Life of Pets
The summer’s newest slice of glossily animated family fare poses a question as old as time: what do our pets do while we’re gone? Some lounge, some gorge on the contents of our unsuspecting fridge and some, with the sole intention of dutifully awaiting their owners return, embark on sprawling adventures, full of self discovery and furry peril. This is the case for Max, the pampered pooch heading The Secret Life of Pets’ canine cast, voiced by the comedian de résistance Louis CK.
Max’s existence of Upper East Side domestic bliss is turned upside when his owner adopts Duke, an enormous, rowdy rescue dog. After a walk gone wrong the two are caught by animal services. Before tensions between them can bubble over into bite as well as bark, the two are freed by Snowball, voiced by the unrelentingly shrill, migraine-inducing Kevin Hart. Snowball is a manic freedom-fighting bunny rabbit hell-bent on the destruction of mankind and an antagonist and eventual ally to the two dogs over the course of the film.
While Hart may grate at times, vocal performances are pretty solid all round. CK brings an understated, every-man charm to Max and Lake Bell and Bobby Moynihan provide loveable support in the form of his chicken-chomping, butt-scratching pals. Particular highlights include a cockney Steve Coogan as the tatty leader of a gang of hairless alley cats – think Peaky Blinders with claws instead of flat caps.
The characters are expressive and the animation intermittently dazzling. The large scale of the sweeping Manhattan skylines at sunset stand up equally well next to the sumptuously rendered close-ups of generously seasoned chicken, set upon by Chloe the cat. The script is sparky, without ever really catching fire. There are frequent sight gags scattered throughout. These range from the perceptive to the juvenile with a midway butt-sniffing circle reinforcing the sense that The Secret Life of Pets is content as a fun, throwaway 90 minutes even if it initially posed something a little more substantial.
Watch the trailer for The Secret Life of Pets here: