As summer rolls in, so do the films designed to keep kids occupied for a couple of hours outside of the heat, they are often hit or miss, but some are just middling.
The Secret Life of Pets has a fun premise which lends itself to some brilliant gags and ideas about what our pets do when we leave the room. The story the film follows is that of Max (Louis C.K.) an only pet with an apparently strong bond with his owner whose world comes crashing down when the owner adopts Duke, a huge and trouble-causing canine. Whilst on a walk, the dogs attempt to get rid of one another leading to them being lost in the city, trying to get home (whilst their friendship grows simultaneously) whilst also trying to avoid the ‘Flushed Pets’, headed by Snowball the bunny (Kevin Hart) who have vowed vengeance on all domestic pets and their owners.
Stripped back, the basic premise of the film may sound very familiar and is, at most plot points, extremely reminiscent of Toy Story. The comparison doesn’t really serve to elevate an opinion of the film as it means it frequently feels like it is retreading old ground and is lacking originality. It also highlights the films lack of that extra spark and entertainment-for-all that Pixar is so well known for. The lack of appeal and jokes aimed at the older members of the crowd may leave them playing the fun but often frustrating game of guessing the voice cast.
However, despite feeling a little too familiar at times, the film’s imaginative ideas of how pets live in secret creates some fantastic moments and the cast lending their voices are brilliant in creating unique and colourful characters that are likeable and enjoyable to watch.
The minions short playing before the film gives a burst of fun energy that proves that even if you are tired of the minion craze; in small doses it can still make you laugh.
The film also contains little Easter eggs to look out for. Whilst it doesn’t go so far as to create puns out of real life brands (instead just showing most of the brands as they are in reality), there are hidden references towards other Illumination films. Look out for a poster for one of their upcoming films on the back of a bus.
The Secret Life of Pets has its moments of imagination and is entertaining enough for an hour and a half but not incredibly memorable.