The Secret Life of Pets

The Secret Life of Pets

The Secret Life of Pets

2016. Directed by Chris Renaud & Yarrow Cheney.

A Pet and His Person.

The Secret Life of Pets is a fun, surface level story about pets and what happens when their owners go to work.   

Max is worried because his person has recently brough home another dog from the pound, Duke.  Their rivalry ultimately leads them outside the safety of their apartment building and into the concrete jungle, populated with various pets that film niche story roles for a familiar, but heartwarming New York fable.  

This is a by pet lovers for pet lovers.  If pets are not your thing, then I think this will not be for you.  However, if you love animal companions in all their various incarnations, then get ready, because this film will have you smiling, and smiling often,  

The cast features strong talent, such as Louis CK, Eric Stonestreet, Steve Coogan, Dana Carvey, Ellie Kemper, and Jennie Slate who are embody their various animal avatars with gusto.  Albert Brooks delivers one of the best performances as a Hawk who finds friendship and begins his path towards the life of a non predator.  Kevin Hart's Snowball villain begins to wear the viewer thin, but manages to course correct by the film's Beastie Boy laced showdown.  

The soundtrack boasts some perfectly chosen tracks that highlights the animals' culture and various plights.System of Down, Pharrell, and The Nappy Roots join the Beastie Boys in helping to create some smile inducing scens, but it is the Bill Withers dominated final montage that will bring tears to the eyes of any pet lover.

Another one of the film's strengths is in it Rockwell presentation of New York City.  It's a place full of life and wonder, where extra building hosts an elaborate social structure of the animal kingdom with various customs and taboos and the heroes navigate each with various degrees of hilarious failure.

A final detail that stayed with me was how the film treated death.  The film features one on screen death and one off screen.  The first is treated with enough comic reverence that it didn't stick with me, but the off screen one will have you wanting to visit your local pound immediately.   While the overall subject matter wasn't especially unique, I respected the film's approach death, by treating it with respect and using the animals to communicate sorrow in a way that is relatable to both children and adults.  

The film strides casually into the animated pantheon as a slim, but charming experience.  It doesn't preach it's message, merely extends a paw in friendship.  Boasting some outright laughs and perhaps not enough depth, The Secret Life of Pets is a great family experience, enhanced only by the viewers' love for their four legged friends.  

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