Loveable? Playful? Mischievous? Loyal? Sometimes possessive? All pet owners know their darlings are all of these, but in The Secret Life of Pets, they are these and more—adventurous, spiteful, heroic, and really comical. Basic credit should go to the directors (Chris Renaud and Yarrow Cheney), the writers (Ken Daurio, Brian Lynch, Cinco Paul), Production designer (Eric Guillon), and art director (Colin Stimpson). And of course to all the actors, especially Louis C.K., Hart, Slate, and Brooks. Everything comes together seamlessly, to make it a colorful and even exciting experience.
In the beginning, we’re given a picture of the “normal” life of these pets after their owners leave them during the day. Max (Louis C.K.) particularly misses his owner, and waits patiently by the door just pining for her to return and wondering where on earth she goes. But horror of horrors, she comes in one day with a HUGE dog named Duke (Stonestreet), who proceeds to edge Max out of his bed, his feeding bowl, and his special status. They begin to vie with each other repeatedly, and on one of their excursions outdoors get caught by dogcatchers and taken to the pound.
This is where the heroics begin to surface, as Snowball (Hart) and his rascal following spring them from the pound and take them to the city sewers where animals who hate their owners band together and look down on pets as wimps and betrayers of the animal kingdom. “Revolution!” they yell when they are “liberating” household pets. This is where the challenge comes for Max and Duke, because as part of their initiation, they have to recount how they killed a human enemy.
Fantastical escapes, chases, and run-ins follow chaotically, which constitute the exciting and funny parts of the story. Some of it is led by the complexity of the cat Gidget’s (Slate) having a giant crush on Max, and when he disappears, she enlists the help of many others to find him and save him.
The music of the composing wizard Alexandre Desplat pumps up the intrigue and playfulness throughout.
The Secret Life of Pets is not all fun and games, and the loyalty and heroics shown are good models for children to see. The ending is the pièce de résistance, though, when the most vengeful character finds solace in a warm embrace.
An animation that animates…delightfully.