Max (Louis C.K.) is a Jack Russell Terrier who loves his owner, Katie (Ellie Kemper). His life centres on the world that exists in their Manhattan apartment complex. From all manner of species, each pet is a reflection of their owners and how the pets have learned to manage their existence in the confines of this New York City block of flats. As Max celebrates the life that he cherishes with his owner, it quickly goes from bliss to trepidation as he is introduced to his new canine roommate named Duke (Eric Stonestreet).
As each of the dogs attempts to gain the love and admiration of Katie, a twist of fate causes them to get separated from their comfortable lifestyle. As this odd couple attempts to get back to their apartment, they must rely on the assistance of a cute and fluffy bunny named Snowball (Kevin Hart). Any pleasant feelings about bunnies is quickly changed for the dogs as they are made aware of the rabbit’s devious plans for the destruction of the human world that left him and many other pets of the city behind. Max and Duke must escape this cottontail controlled world to find their way back home, while a search party of furry and feathered friends attempt to find the lost pair of hounds.
It can often be said that there are no original stories coming out of Hollywood, especially when it comes to animated family entertainment. This statement can be challenged by 2015’s Inside Out and the recent success of Zootopia, but is supported by the latest Illumination production. If you were to take a bit of Bolt, add in the sewer of Flushed Away, take the core concepts of Toy Story, include the villain from Hoodwinked, and then mix them in with a bit of pet food, the result would be The Secret Life of Pets.
Not to be misunderstood, director Chris Renaud (Despicable Me) has managed to provide enough creative spins to these familiar concepts to make it worth Mums and Dads to get to the cinema. Delving into the world of pets after their owners leave for the day is a notion that is ripe with possibilities. The creatures at the centre of the story are endearing, but do eventually lack the magic of similar films that have proceeded them. Due to this lack of originality in the primary approach the storyline does wear thin after a while. What shows promise in the beginning, turns into a mad capped bundle of confusion.
Understandably, animated films are not known for exceptional logic, but this outing does stretch the limits of anyone’s imagination.
All that being said, the creators of the Despicable Me franchise do provide a film that families can enjoy together. Parents will enjoy the nuances of the animals habits and young children will enjoy the Minion-like slapstick humour. This combination makes this new animal adventure the equivalent of a good scratch behind the ear for families seeking a safe choice of entertainment for the weekend.
What should parents know about The Secret Life of Pets?
Kids Korner review: Junior reviewer Caroline Matthews (aged 12) – The pets were really funny and made me think about my own petslives. The story reminded me of some of my other favourite films, but I did laugh and had fun.
Reel Dialogue: What are the bigger questions to consider from this film?
- Does God care about animals? (Genesis 1:26-28, Matthew 6:26, Luke 12:6)
- What is our responsibility with our pets? (2 Samuel 12:1-6, Proverbs 12:10)
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