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Film review: The Secret Life of Pets

Film & TV

It’s a hyperactive and exhausting romp, but there’s still something very likeable about this animated animal adventure.

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Max is a terrier mix living with Katie in a New York flat. He pretty much waits expectantly by the door every time she goes out, and when she returns, there he is, by the door, barking and jumping and overjoyed.

It’s a good enough life, this dog’s life, until Katie brings home Duke, a big shaggy dog from the pound who’s as uninterested in sharing Katie’s loving attention as Max is. In trying to get rid of the other, the two dogs end up on the city streets and on the run from a gang of alley cats, eventually landing themselves in the sewers, where an underground animal gang make plans to rid the world of humankind and domesticated pets.

The Secret Life of Pets is a fast-paced romp, where nearly every scene has a lot of something going on (subplot, character, scenery, action, jokes – I seriously could keep going).

I think I was tired from the get go, and the last time I’d felt that way while watching a film it was during Mower Minions, the preview short before Secret Life, also from Illumination Entertainment. Both films feel monotonous in their hyperactive forward movement, yet there’s still something likeable about them.

Snowball (voiced by Kevin Hart), the white bunny who ironically leads the thuggish gang called the Flushed Pets, steals every scene he’s in and feels to be the cleverest of the lot.

The animation is excellent. New York City is a busy hue of distant pinks and blues, and the city up close is a series of charming red and green brownstones and apartment blocks with hipster clothes strung between them. If this was the only film you’d ever watched that depicted NYC (pretty unimaginable, really, but for the sake of the argument, go on and pretend), you’d think it was the most liveable place in the world.

It might be the premise, though, that won me over: a movie that makes us think about the pets we love – and because it is dog-focused, dog families might like it all the more. Um, actually bunny families might be most delighted. Snowball is really very good.

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