KAYLEE BREWSTERThree out of Five
“The Secret Life of Pets” is a fun movie that will make you love our furry friends even more.
Every day, Katie (Ellie Kemper) goes to work in New York City, leaving Max (Louis C.K.) home alone. Other pets like Gidget (Jenny Slate), Chloe (Lake Bell), Mel (Bobby Moynihan) and Buddy (Hannibal Buress) take the opportunity to watch some soaps, eat leftovers in the fridge and protect their turf from squirrels while their owners are away. But Max sits at the door and waits. This doesn’t bother him at all because Katie is his human, nothing will come between them, and as long as they are together all is right with the world.
That all changes when Katie brings home Max’s new “brother,” Duke (Eric Stonestreet). Duke ruins the perfect world Max has maintained, so obviously Duke needs to go. But Max’s plan to rid his life of his new roomie backfires when they both end up lost, with animal catchers and gangs of strays and abandoned animals on their tails.
The story isn’t anything new. It’s sort of a mix between “Toy Story” and “Homeward Bound,” but there’s plenty added in to freshen it up.
One of those factors is the cast, many of whom are actual New Yorkers, which adds a sense of authenticity to the setting. They also perfectly fit their characters — particularly Bell as the unsympathetic Chloe the cat, whose dry, sarcastic and indifferent mood is reflected in her voice.
The animation is spectacular in its colorization; New York City has never looked brighter or bolder. There also is a uniqueness to its characters: From cute puppies, fat cats, adorable bunnies or old dogs, no two animals look the same, which helps differentiate them.
But the secret to “The Secret Life of Pets” is how it handles animal behavior. As you watch the film, you see traits that are reflected in your own pets — even in the little things, like Duke spinning around in circles before he lies down. Or in the general temperament of the animals, such as how Chloe could care less about her owners, while Max lives in agony over Katie’s behavior toward him. Their understanding of the world also comes from their own pet perspective: Max constantly wonders why Katie leaves him almost every day and why she doesn’t just stay home.
There are a few tweaks here and there that could be made to develop some of the story elements. Sometimes the movie feels like it’s missing something — maybe a sprinkle of ingenuity there or a pinch more heartfelt emotion here.
But it’s hard not to love a movie that is dedicated to those animals we love so much, and that idea is made very clear.
“The Secret Life of Pets” is an entertaining film all ages are sure to enjoy.