Have you ever wondered what our pets get up to once we leave the house? Do they sit and wait for us to return? Do they enjoy our absence and let loose?
Illumination Entertainment, the humans behind the Despicable Me franchise as well as spin off The Minion Movie aim to answer this age old question in their latest animated adventure, The Secret Life of Pets.
The film centres on Max who lives with his owner and best friend Katie in New York City, surrounded by other pets that must endure their humans leaving them at home for work. When dog lover Katie brings home overgrown Duke as a brother, the pair instantly take a dislike to one another. Their rivalry results in the two being taken in by the pound. A rogue animal group named “Flushed Pets’ sets out to rescue them. Can the two make their way home and evade their human hating rescuers, or will their plucky neighbourhood pets come to the rescue?
As a concept, The Secret Life of Pets is a standard idea with lots of potential for entertainment. Animals lost in the big city conjures up dozens of films from Homeward Bound to Shaun the Sheep. The plot is very predictable but with its array of plucky characters and witty humour The Secret Life of Pets is a great watch for the whole family.
The film has a huge emphasis on visual humour. Anyone who has seen the film’s teaser trailer knows it turns everyday pet traits, such as barking non-stop or dragging their bottoms across the floor, into great gags. These run throughout and are one of the films strongest elements.
The film also benefits from a strong voice cast lead by Louis C.K. as Max. His dry wit and rivalry with overgrown dog Duke is a good centre to the film. Jenny Slate steals many a scene as hopelessly devoted Pomeranian Gidget. Her affections for Max and feisty determination makes her a standout character. The character of Snowball, the unhinged but adorable bunny leader of Flushed Pets, can feel a little overdone as cute but deadly is standard these days but Kevin Hart makes the character a riot to behold (he’s a bad-ass bunny).
Illumination Entertainment’s productions are done on roughly a third of a Pixar or DreamWork’s budgets. The studio are not trying to push the boundaries of animation like their competitors are. Because of this the film lacks the detail, depth, textures, and scenery expected in imminent releases such as Finding Dory and Kubo and the Two Strings. This is not to say that the animation is unappealing. The animals aare cute, the humans passable, and, with this film, they have created a stronger landscape than their previous pictures; the New York skyline and the city backdrop prominently displayed as the pets search for their lost friend.
Despite this visual drawback, the company sets out to make films that will entertain and make you laugh. The Secret Life of Pets will not likely have the runaway success of the studios previous offering The Minions but the film is a fun ride from start to finish.
The makers of Despicable Me have delivered another funny movie caper. Although lacking the emotional or narrative punch of their rivals, the visual gags mean you will never look at your pet in the same way again.
The Secret Life of Pets is out on DVD and Blu-Ray now!