<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Chris Renaud & Yarrow Cheney. Starring the voice talent of Louis CK, Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart, Lake Bell, Jenny Slate, Bobby Moynihan, Ellie Kemper, Albert Brooks, Hannibal Buress, Dana Carvey, Steve Coogan, Chris Renaud
Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes
From the French team of filmmakers who made the wonderful Despicable Me, comes the exceedingly fun and cute The Secret Life of Pets, which has a great story and some adorable characters.
If you’re dog lover or a cat lover who also likes other animals then this film will delight you. I for one thought Max (Louis CK) looked a lot like my terrier Eddie. Pet parents – I prefer that term to pet ‘owners’ – are well aware of how their dogs are ready to greet them at the door when they’ve been out. In America it’s more so since there’s no one else in the house and they end up sitting by the door. It’s sad really but The Secret Life of Pets takes us on adventure to show us that our pets may well have other lives and interests that keep them occupied at least for part of the time when they’re not busy missing us.
The film is set in New York, which is captured wonderfully as a place of wonder and largeness. Max is a happy rescue dog staying with his human mommy Katie (Ellie Kemper) who is everything to him. He doesn’t even realise that the fur ball female Gidget (Jenny Slate) in the next building has a huge crush on him. Then one day Katie brings home Duke (Eric Stonestreet), a huge shaggy brown rescue that wants to take over the house from Max who won’t take it lying down. In the process of their scuffling, Max and Duke get lost while out on a walk. They are taken in by a psychotic but cute magicians bunny called Snowball (Kevin Hart) who leads a motley crew of serpents, amphibians, cats, dogs, pigs and various other animals that have been abandoned by the humans who claim to love them. They are dedicated to human extermination!
In the meantime, Gidget and her friends decide they have to find Max and so ensues a search and journey of discovery into the lives of pets and strays. It’s all so delightfully funny and cute. And what I loved was the fact that the story had moments of darkness as well as insight. The film touches upon issues like adopting dogs instead of buying them and how cruelly we treat some animals as opposed to others. An interesting disconnect was showing Max and Duke in a sausage factory merrily gulping down wieners in a doggie fantasyland: clearly it’s okay for some animals to become food.
The Secret Life of Pets isn’t overly saccharine or predictable like something you’d get out of a Hollywood production. I think the French influence on the movie gives it a definitely different feel and vibe that’s charming and witty with nuances of human and animal behaviour effectively captured. Let’s treat our pets like family and think about all animals as sentient and loving beings.
PS: Snowball should get a movie of his own.