The Secret Life Of Pets takes us inside the mind of domestic animals in New York City, more specifically into the mind of Max (Louis C.K), a dog whose life is turned upside down when his beloved owner brings back another dog.
The latest film from Illumination Entertainment (the minds behind Despicable Me and Minions) shows us what our pets gets up to once we leave the house. In this world our pets act very much like us, they have relationships, hobbies and desires that they can fulfill once we close the door.
Our main domestic animal is Max, an apartment bound dog whose daily routine is to sit by the door, eager for his owner's return. His life is pretty uneventful but he's happy, that is until his owner returns home with a big floppy dog named Duke (Eric Stonestreet). The two dogs don't get along to begin with and this rivalry takes them outside into the Big Apple, where they must find their way back home.
The set up and concept for The Secret Life Of Pets is fun and director Chris Renaud provides a solid opening for the film, showing each animal go about their daily routine once their owner leaves the apartment, but once the plot kicks in and our characters leave the comfort of their homes, proceedings become a little too predictable and the film gradually tires itself out with loud and obnoxious characters getting into loud and tedious sequences. The biggest crime of Illumination's latest is that is takes a relatively fun concept in far too many familiar directions.
Set in the vertically buoyant designed city of Manhattan, the film takes us from the top of apartment buildings (some of which are seemingly never ending), all the way to the very bottom of the murky sewers, where Kevin Hart's evil Bunny character hides his army of revolutionist animals aptly named "The Flushed Pets". The film does a very good job of making New York feel like a character in the story, a character I enjoyed so much more than the actual characters that inhabited it. Whilst the voice cast is impressive, 75% of them weren't recognizable, I had no idea Ellie Kemper, Eric Stonestreet and Lake Bell were even in the movie. Louis C.K, Kevin Hart and Albert Brooks are the most recognizable voices but the problem is, the performances are all one note and the characters are pretty forgettable.
The film has some laughs, most of which occur within the opening reel, unfortunately once the plot gets moving, the laughs become thin and far between. Most of the humor comes from the idea that these animals have very human characteristics whilst remaining adorable and incredibly well animated pets. Where the film starts to lose itself is with the vast variety of animals, there's simply a few too many characters, meaning all of them are pretty thin with predictable arcs. Of course, this film is aimed at children and the design and loud nature of the film will probably keep them entertained, but don't expect more mature viewers to find a great deal of enjoyment.
On a technical level, The Secret Life Of Pets is rather impressive, an opening sweeping shot of the vibrant, bustling and exuberant city had me in awe and the character designs are all very unique. But on a script and story level, there's nothing in The Secret Life Of Pets that you've not seen before and in that way it's quite disappointing.
Young kids will probably have a blast with this animated film but for the adults who have to take them to the cinema, don't expect a lot. I'm giving The Secret Life Of Pets a 4.6/10.