This company’s super hit distinguishes itself from other 2016 animated features by daring to just please viewers through the simplicity of its zany tale and successfully doing so.
The Secret Life of Pets follows Max (Louie C.K) and Duke (Eric Stonestreet) two dogs who are effectively made into brothers when Max’s owner Katie (Ellie Kemper) adopts Duke one random night. After a series of zany events the two go on the run from both animal control and a group of rejected pets lead by Snowball (Kevin Hart) and must find their way back home. All while Max’s friends, lead by Jenny Slate’s crazy in love Gidget, make it their mission to find the pair.
This is not an original or deep film. The story of lost pets finding their way back to their owners can be traced to a number of things (my first thought was Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey… which was apparently a remake). But instead of the heavy sentimental feel of that film, this has a never ending sense of joy and fun. While Max and Duke desperately want to make it back home they never whine and mop about the dangers they face and reach the low points the pets in that film did. Another frequently made comparison is 1995’s historical animate classic Toy Story. While Max and Duke’s dynamic is similar to Woody and Buzz’s on a structural level it never had the intensity and back and forth drama that the toys. Max and Duke start out on a bad place but immediately get over it when they realize the situation they are in. It’s a simpler one that lacks their development but is an enjoyable pairing nonetheless. Louie C.K and Eric Stonestreet both bring the laughs with their characters, both of which are shown to be far more capable than I expected.
The film ultimately has a carefree and loving attitude that is never really dimmed down. While some of the more emotional moments don’t pack the same punch as you feel that they should, the funny fast paced nature of the film shines through and through. The characters are entertaining and a blast to be around, the heart and love of animals comes through with ease (I don’t own a dog but it made me want one), the animation is bright, colorful, zany and very on brand for Illumination, the rising juggernaut of the animated world .