Max is a simple, happy dog. Content to sit staring at the front door all day waiting for his owner Katie to come home, Max wants for nothing more than to live his life out alone with her. Then Duke shows up. A mountainous shaggy carpet of a dog, Duke wastes no time in making himself at home after dog-lover Katie rescues him from the pound. Needless to say, Max and Duke do not get on and things only go from bad to worse the following day.
Having found themselves separated from the dog walker, Max and Duke soon run into trouble with the animal control men followed by a brief induction in a gang of discarded pets (lead by vicious ex-magician's bunny Snowball). With their cost home falling further and further away, it’s left up to Max's ragtag menagerie of friends to track them down and save the day.
What follows are a series of predictable tropes that weave in and out of the usual heart-pulling sentiments of two opposing characters coming together against the odds and becoming best friends. To say that this is Illumination's attempt to create an animal-based carbon copy of Toy Story would not be an understatement. There's even a sausage dog and a pig!
That said, for all of its pilfering of Pixar's primary franchise, The Secret Life of Pets actually works pretty well. Admittedly, the one-note gag that made the teaser trailer so enjoyable does wear thin quite quickly (there's only so many times the head-banging poodle will make you laugh) but the quirky characters and journey through New York's streets (and sewers) makes for enjoyable enough entertainment.
If Illumination had hoped to make this an instant classic then the team behind this film may need to go and sit in the corner. However, the fun animals, fast pace and family-friendly fun earns this film a pat on the head and keep it from winding up in the dog house.
There are plenty of added features on the Blu-Ray, although they're all pretty bog-standard. Featurettes with staged recording sessions (at least kids won't realize that you don’t record audio in a big empty room filled with press material), stars holding a variety of animals, animation breakdowns and music videos are all present.
out above the crowd are the obligatory three short films, featuring the underdog
(or rather under-hamster) Norman, the adorably bizarre hot dog sausages and -
of course - the Minions.
THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS / CERT: U / DIRECTORS: YARROW CHENEY, CHRIS RENAUD / SCREENWRITERS: CINCO PAUL & KEN DAURIO / STARRING: LOUIS C.K., ERIC STONESHEET, KEVIN HART, STEVE COOGAN, ELLIE KEMPER / RELEASE DATE: NOVEMBER 14TH