April 23, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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Geek Review: The Secret Life Of Pets

Two dogs struggle to get home to their owner in this cartoon comedy.

I own a cat.  What does she do when I’m not home?  Well, my place isn’t a wreck when I come home, so I’m guessing not much.

The new animated comedy The Secret Life of Pets seeks to give an answer of sorts to that very question.

Max (Louis CK) is a small terrier happily living in a very clean and bright version of Manhattan, the kind normally reserved for cartoons and episodes of Friends, with his owner Katie (Ellie Kemper).  One day Katie brings home a giant, hairy mutt named Duke (Eric Stonestreet) and the two do not get along at all.  Max wants the place to himself, and the best advice he can get is from the fat cat upstairs, Chloe (Lake Bell), is he needs to assert himself and be the alpha dog.

The long and the short of it is the plan works too well, and Duke and Max are separated from their dog walker, lose their collars, get grabbed by animal control, and are “rescued” by a group of anti-human former pets that were flushed away and tossed out by their old owners, led by a fast-talking, particularly psycho former magician’s bunny named Snowball (Kevin Hart).  Meanwhile, a small lap dog from the building across from Max’s, Gidget (Jenny Slate), organizes a rescue operation to bring Max home with the help of Chloe, a couple dogs, a parakeet, a guinea pig, and a hawk trying to curb his desire to eat the others.  The last one is played by Albert Brooks, making for a very different kind of talking animal role for that man.

The movie isn’t particularly revolutionary in many ways.  That’s fine.  Intended for younger viewers, I think kids will enjoy it just fine, and it won’t be too hard on parents.  The movie seems to be less and less about what pets really do when we’re not home as it goes along, but it also isn’t too loud or obnoxious, and keeps the body humor to a minimum.  Seriously, there was more body humor in The BFG.  There are some highly creative moments, many involving an elderly basset hound named Pops (Dana Carvey) showing the other pets the fine art of finding a lost dog in the big city.

The climax may put the movie’s title to the lie, since I am pretty sure what happens there would mean there isn’t really a “secret” life for these pets, but all things being equal, it was a decent movie to take the kids to see and had some visual invention, which is about all I ask for in a kids movie.  Not quite as fun as Finding Dory, I’m giving this one seven and a half head-banging poodles out of ten.

Oh, the movie came with a Minions short (meh) and there is a mid-credits scene.