The Secret Life of Pets

Distributed by: Universal Pictures

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


                When I first saw promos of The Secret Life of Pets, I knew I had to see this film.  The animated movie spoke to me, showing us what our pets might be doing while we’re out and about on our daily routines.  The cat reminded me of my own…and was even named Chloe…and the head-banging party poodle was hilarious.  I told everyone about the film and many of my friends saw it in theaters, but every time I tried, I could never get in.  Luckily, I was able to see it recently On Demand.

                The film begins with Max (Louis C.K.), a Jack Russell terrier who was adopted by a young woman named Katie (Ellie Kemper) and lives in Manhattan.  Life with Katie has been great and when she’s not around, Max has fun with the other pets in the building like oversized kitty Chloe (Lake Bell), hyperactive pug Mel (Bobby Moynihan), laidback dachshund Buddy (Hannibal Buress) and adventurous parakeet Sweetpea.  Unfortunately, Max’s life is about to get very interesting.  Katie has just come home with a new addition to their family – a huge shaggy dog named Duke (Eric Stonestreet).

                Max is immediately jealous of Duke and, though afraid of his stature, quickly asserts his dominance as top dog of the apartment.  Unfortunately, while out on a walk with the distracted local dog walker, Max’s attempt to ditch Duke works against them and the two are attacked in an alley buy stray cats led by a tattered Sphynx named Ozone (Steve Coogan).  Dog collars removed, Max and Duke find themselves carted off by Animal Control on their way to the pound, a location Duke is deathly afraid of.

                They are soon rescued by a slightly warped-minded rabbit named Snowball (Kevin Hart), leader of The Flushed Pets, a gang of abandoned and/or mistreated former pets who now live in the sewers of New York City.  Snowball wants Max and Duke to join the gang and, when they try to leave, Snowball becomes enraged, vowing revenge. 

                While Max and Duke try to find their way back to Katie without killing each other, their friends, led by Pomeranian Gidget (Jenny Slate), try desperately to find them and bring them home.

                From start to finish, The Secret Life of Pets made me laugh.  Just watching the antics of the animals as their people leave the apartment was hilarious enough – Chloe tossing her dry food in preference to what is in the refrigerator, the refined Leonard playing heavy metal music and rocking out, Buddy using the mixer as a massaging tool, Mel bouncing up and down as he watches the window, Sweetpea fantasizing about soaring over the plains like a jet fighter and Gidget engrossed in her favorite soap opera.  I have often wondered what my pets do when I’m not home.  I have sneaking suspicions…especially when I notice things out of place and items in the water bowl that don’t belong there.  I have joked that Natasia, and now Chloe, invite their neighborhood buddies over to party while I’m away, having come home to find strange cats roaming just outside my door racing away upon catching sight of me.

                The storyline of the film is spot on with how some established pets behave once a newcomer enters the picture.  I loved the idea of the animals getting away from the distracted pet walker – having lived in the city, I have actually seen this happen.  Plus, I had a friend whose dog was the escape-artist of the neighborhood, so I’ve had some practice hunting down a pet who thinks their actions are more of an adventure than something to be worried over.  I found Kevin Hart’s portrayal of Snowball to be hysterical and loved that scene where he gets overly excited and something embarrassing happens – I once took care of a rabbit and have witnessed this take place in real life.  I sympathize with the Flushed Pets, definitely aware of all of the animals who end up on the streets as strays.

                Sure, some of the action in the film is far-fetched, but it is just an animated film after all.  It’s not designed to be factual; it’s designed to be entertaining.  But the factual things that are included – those little added touches – remind you of every pet you may ever have had in your life and you can’t help but smiling.  Only pet people will recognize these moments…moments like the ball, the most exciting thing in any dog’s life; the way Chloe always ends up in a box or bowl no matter how small it is compared to her body type; the yipping dogs that jump up at the window over and over just trying to catch a glimpse of the outdoors; the way cat toys seem to get attached to a cat’s paw without them seeming to understand how; the way Chloe nips her person while giving love.  These are scenes that draw the pet people in and the rest is just a fun ride.

                I thoroughly enjoyed watching The Secret Lives of Pets and can’t wait to do so again.  This is a classic film designed to draw in people who have a love for animals, but any child or adult will find something to love about this movie.  I’m glad I finally had a chance to see it…now I have to go out and buy myself a copy!


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