What do our pets do when we’re not at home? Sleep? Pine for us? Steal out of the fridge? Sleep some more?
According to The Secret Life of Pets, yes, they do all of these things. But, while watchinganimals snoozing might be cute at first, it probably wouldn’t be engaging enough to sustain a 90 minute feature film…
That’s why it’s a good thing that Max’sowner Katie (Ellie Kemper) brings him home a brother. You see, Max (Louis C.K.) and this new “brother” (Duke, voiced by Modern Family’s Eric Stonestreet) don’t exactly get along. They squabble, they torment each other and – besides – Max can’t stand that he has to share Katie’s affections with another dog.
Before too long, Max and Duke’s squabbling gets out of hand, and they manage to get themselves lost. And not only do they manage to get themselves lost: they also inadvertently get themselves involved with a gang of human-hating ex-pets, headed up by a ferocious (yet very adorable) bunny rabbit (Kevin Hart, the best part of the film).
Now, if you swap “Katie” with “Andy”, Max with “Woody” and Duke with “Buzz”, what you’ve got so far is pretty much the firstToy Story. (Andy brings home Buzz, Woody and Buzz hate each other, Woody and Buzz get lost together, and Woody and Buzz have to overcome their differences to make their way home).
There’s even a comparison to be made between Kevin Hart’s Snowball, and the sadistic Sid (although admittedly, that might be pushing it a bit).
But, don’t write The Secret Life of Pets off as a carbon-copy of Toy Story just yet. While it might share some similarities (what pets do when we’re not looking/ what toys do when we’re not looking being the glaringly obvious one), it also has a lot – and I mean a lot – that’s new and original.
The multi-faceted characters, for example, are a particular strength. You see, whileMax and Duke are trying to escape this terrifying gang, Max’s domesticated mates (Jenny Slate as some sort of tiny poodle, Lake Bell as a very fat cat, Hannibal Burress as a sausage dog and Albert Brooks as a hawk) launch a rescue mission that involves them leaving the safety of their homes, and journeying out into the big bad world (New York, in this case) in an effort to bring their friend home.
While the main players here areMax and Duke, this motley crew of their would-be rescuers have enough adventures to sustain another film entirely. Plus, while Max and Duke have issues to work out, their only function is to be funny. (A scene that you’ll struggle to forgetseesChloe the cat wreak havoc at a house party, and could have been lifted from “Cats Do The Funniest Things”).
Then there’s Kevin Hart, whowas – quite frankly – born for this role of an evil fluffy bunny. Stealing every scene that he’s in,Snowball is high-energy hilarious to the extent that I found myself considering whether I should be joining his miscreant group ofhuman-hating ex-pets. And look how cute he is…
The plot might be a bit predictable, but The Secret Life of Pets is for kids – it’s not exactly going to attempt a ‘Bruce Willis was dead all along’ style twist. Besides, this is the kind of film that you want to be predictable.
You want the emotional heart-to-hearts between two dog “brothers”. You want the poojokes and the sausage factory montage. You want the adventure, but you want everything to work out in the end.
And then, when it’s all over, you’ll want to go home and hug your pets.
The Secret Life of Pets hits UK screens on the 24th June.