If the new animated film The Secret Life of Pets were a domesticated animal itself, it would be one of those adorable albeit annoyingly-named hybrid dogs – a labradoodle or a cockapoo or, as Jeff Daniels describes in Dumb & Dumber, a bullshit (the cross between a bulldog and a shih-tzu). Each breed is face-melting cute and highly marketable, but essentially just another lovable, everyday mutt.
That’s not to say moviegoers won’t fall head over paws with the cast of furry, feathered and even hairless characters in the sixth animated feature film from Illumination Entertainment, the studio which also boasts the popular Despicable Me franchise in their catalog. While Illumination still hasn’t reached the storytelling heights of Pixar or Disney (what in the hell was Hop anyway?), the company's cost-cutting animation techniques (they spend far less than their competition) are definitely not coughing up furballs either.
Despite the notable animation and top-notch voice work, Pets displays little originality in its script. In fact, Dog Story probably would’ve been a better title. The film tells the tale of Max (Louis C.K.), a Jack Russell Terrier living in a Manhattan apartment with his owner Katie (Ellie Kemper). Max’s perfect life is thrown out of whack when Katie brings home Duke (Eric Stonestreet), a shaggy and somewhat reckless Newfoundland dog to join their family. When Max and Duke are snatched by the pound, Max’s animal friends, led by Gidget (Jenny Slate), a squeaky, lovesick Pomeranian, set out to find the canine companions and bring them home before a psychotic, scene-stealing bunny named Snowball (Kevin Hart) and his wretched gang of abandoned pets turn them into puppy chow.