This review is spoiler free.
The fifth film in Illumination Entertainment’s catalogue sees them move on from minions to small creatures of another kind, our pets!
If you do need your minion fix there is a short at the start of the film as well as a reference in the post-credits scene, but overall director Tim Hill has a free reign to create his own film. Hill has previously directed another Illumination title Hop, so was a good choice to work within their remit.
The Secret Life of Pets follows Max, a rescue dog used to getting his own way with his loving owner Katie. But things are about to change for Max, as Katie brings home another rescue dog Duke. With his nose out of joint, Max tries to rid himself of Duke but they both end up on the run from the dog catchers. They also find themselves on the run from a group of ‘ex-pets’, now determined to seek revenge on humankind. With Max and Duke dodging danger around every corner, Max’s friends lead the charge to rescue them, and get them back before their owners return home.
Now if all of this seems a little familiar, that’s because the film shares a lot of the same plot beats as Toy Story. This is not a criticism of the film, as who doesn’t love Toy Story? What we are trying to say is the story doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it follows a solid structure that keeps the film nice and tidy.
While it doesn’t break much ground in terms of the story, it does perfectly capture what us pet owners like to think happens when we are away from our pets. Ok the truth may be that they just sleep off most of the day, but they did come up with some very funny and creative situations for the characters.
Whoever advised them on the pet’s mannerisms deserves a medal as they were captured perfectly. The time and effort it took to make these characters come to life and feel very real should not be overlooked.
The animation style is kept in-line with all of Illumination’s other properties, so the movie does lack its own visual identity. This neither helps nor harms the film, so in the end it doesn’t make that much of a difference. You just felt that what they had to work with could have been utilised a little better to create a more unique product.
While the cast includes a range of established comedians (Including our very own Steve Coogan) the film does lack a bit of star power that could have been used as an extra draw.
Kevin Hart stood out the most, as the militant white rabbit Snowball, and he helped to bring his usual larger than life personality to the screen. Close behind Hart was Jenny Slate as Gidget the Pomeranian, her performance was very good and most of the time outshines the two lead roles of Max and Duke. A special mention also goes to Dana Carvey as Pops, a paralysed Basset Hound, whose introduction really added something special to the film.
The kids will love this movie, but there is plenty for the adults to enjoy, with lots of film references thrown in to the mix. With Finding Dory following close behind, The Secret Life of Pets does have competition that could potentially cut in to its market. But from a UK stand point, being a nation of animal lovers, the film should do pretty well overall.
The Secret Life of Pets is a truly enjoyable film that will have you laughing and tearing up in equal measure. We urge you to see it, as the time and attention to bringing these characters to life is simply faultless.
The Secret Life of Pets is in UK cinemas nationwide now.