The Secret Life of Pets

 

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A Jack Russell terrier and outsize mongrel discover a conspiracy to eliminate all human-owned pets.

 

Secret Life of Pets

What pets do in private... 

 

It’s a familiar pattern. A few films of a particular stripe clean up at the box-office and all the studios jump on the band wagon. With the case of computer animation – which with the development of more sophisticated software has become cheaper to produce – a slew of colourful and cheerful films have flooded the multiplex. Recent titles like Capture the Flag, Ratchet & Clank and Top Cat Begins are largely foreign productions, developed by Spain, Canada and Mexico respectively. Indeed, half the films in this year’s box-office top-ten are animated – or will be when The Angry Birds Movie edges out London Has Fallen. The rest of the hits, from Captain America: Civil War to X-Men: Apocalypse, are so congested with CGI that they border on the format. And the top earner so far? The Jungle Book, which, in spite of its human star – Neel Sethi as Mowgli – is pure animation, albeit of a particularly photo-realistic kind. But the films that kick-started this deluge, the Toy Storys, Finding Nemos and Inside Outs were original, witty and inventive fare, creatively fine-tuned to wihin an inch of their lives.

 

The Secret Life of Pets, from Illumination Entertainment, the company that brought us Despicable Me and Minions, may well appeal to the young. It is colourful, action-packed and has more than its share of droll defecation. Not unlike the South Korean-produced The Nut Job in its narrative – two mismatched critters find themselves lost in the big city and join forces to battle a greater evil – the film lacks the magic of Disney and the wit of Pixar. Its comic beats are largely predictable, as are the familiar hit tunes which, when accompanied by an animated episode, somehow take on a faux sense of the comic. However, the film does have some fun with its inversion of the expected stereotypes. The villain, for instance, is a fluffy little bunny called Snowball (voiced by Kevin Hart), who’s all attitude and rage, exclaiming: “Death is coming to Brooklyn – and it’s got buck teeth and a cottontail!” There’s also a crocodile called Gareth and a topiaried poodle addicted to death metal, not to mention a geriatric basset hound (Dana Carvey) who exclaims: “For me, every breath is a cliff-hanger.” But these are small jocular distractions in what is otherwise a Looney Tunes express train in search of a punchline. A stronger story and wittier visual streak would have reaped dividends.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Voices of Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart, Steve Coogan, Ellie Kemper, Bobby Moynihan, Lake Bell, Dana Carvey, Hannibal Buress, Jenny Slate, Albert Brooks, Laraine Newman.

 

Dir Chris Renaud and Yarrow Cheney, Pro Chris Meledandri and Janet Healy, Screenplay Brian Lynch, Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio, Pro Des Eric Guillon, Ed Ken Schretzmann, Music Alexandre Desplat.

 

Illumination Entertainment-Universal Pictures.

90 mins. USA. 2016. Rel: 24 June 2016. Cert. U.