Illumination makes no subtle way of reminding you that they created Despicable Me and the Minions, including one of their cute little yellow friends in every possible way, from short films to even their logo but this time around it’s little furry animals that are the focus, beginning with (the uninspired choice of name) Max. Max (Louis C.K.) lives with Katie (Ellie Kemper) in what is practically the perfect life, until one day Katie brings home a new brother for Max in the form of Duke (Eric Stonestreet), a big lump of a dog throwing his life into turmoil. When Max attempts to scheme to get rid of Duke things begin to go wrong and he must use the help of his friends Gidget (Jenny Slate), Chloe (Lake Bell), Buddy (Hannibal Buress) and Mel (Bobby Moynihan), while avoiding the human hating bunny Snowball (Kevin Hart) and his band of misfits, to get home to Katie.
The voice work on the film undoubtedly highlights Kevin Hart as the lead, with his perfectly chosen maniacal bunny that is one of the high points of the film, with some of the best lines; but at the same time it is fairly predictable as Hart has managed to make an impressive presence in the media world at the moment. Next up would be Jenny Slate’s Gidget, her voice is certainly unique and she is a talented comedian who manages to get that through on screen despite being in the body of a very small, fluffy, white dog. Thirdly, you can’t ignore Lake Bell’s apathetic cat Chloe, whose sarcasm is brilliantly in sync with the behaviours you’d expect from a cat and that any owner will see daily. As for the rest of the cast, it all feels too on the nose, it’s exactly what you’d expect and so there’s no real excitement to the voice work which hinders the film as the top three can’t hold up the film on their own with less screen time than the others.
The plot of the film leaves a lot to be desired, although the principal idea of being lost and having to find their way home in a big city with a gang of crazy rogue animals on your tail (quite literally) sounds as though it could create chaos and adventure, it only does in a small dose. The second area that could do with a lot of improvement is the humour, though the trailer set high hopes there’s really not a huge presence of comedy throughout which leaves a lot of moments feeling rather drawn out. Lastly there’s also a huge lack of attempt to build up an audience relationship with any of the characters, our introduction to Max is minimal and none of the other characters are quite so lucky as to even get more than any basic information provided, leaving little chance of feeling invested in what happens to any of them.
The Secret Life of Pets originates from what is undoubtedly a solid idea, it is difficult to find a person who does not love animals and animation is fun for all ages, but it doesn’t back up that good idea with a decent film. It’s lacking in laughs and excitement while definitely feeling like just one for the kids this time around.