PG  |  90 min  |  Animation, Comedy, Family
Review - Matt Mungle

*In theaters July 8th 2016*

SynopsisA terrier named Max has his quiet life upended when his owner also takes in Duke, a stray mutt whom Max instantly dislikes.

Review: Tails are wagging with enhanced excitement for the new animated family flick, THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS. Excitement has been brewing since we first saw that headbanging poodle, Leonard. Sadly all of the really tasty morsels are in the trailer and the rest is just a standard bowl of dry kibble. 

Max (Louis C.K.) is a cute enough terrier with an even cuter owner, Katie (Ellie Kemper). They have been the best of buddies for as long as Max can remember. It is a perfect life until Katie brings home a large, hairy, boorish, mutt named Duke (Eric Stonestreet). When Max's plan to get rid of Duke causes them both to end up on the street their neighborhood pals must come to the rescue and make sure Max and Duke get home safely. Along the way they battle a street wise bunny (Kevin Hart) and animal control.

There is nothing inherently wrong with this film. It has several funny moments and the writers nail the animal characteristics. Pet owners will get all the jokes and appreciate the way each species is handled. Even the pet/owner dynamic is spot on. The story has plenty of adventure and everyone in the family will enjoy certain aspects of it. The problem is that all of the high lite moments that you would want to encounter fresh and organic have been saturated in clips and commercials. By the time you see them in the context of the film they feel old and stale. The rest of the film is just a safe and anecdotal production. 

If there is one saving grace it is the addition of the bunny Snowball. Having Hart voice this tossed aside pet was such a wise decision. Kevin's delivery of the dialogue is the same rapid fire, slightly put out, self deprecating tone we love. And to have it come out of a small fluffy rabbit it comic gold. The rest of the voiced actors fit their characters nicely. Jenny Slate voices Gidget, a small prim and proper Pomeranian who has a little secret her own. Dana Carvey will draw in the older crowd fittingly as a crusty older dog they call Pops.

Though they pack this full of dogs there are also several other variety of animals to add depth to the litter. Cat lovers (and those that simply tolerate them) will especially enjoy watching Chloe (Lake Bell). There is no question that cats are a breed apart. Kids will have fun watching the animals interact but the adults will certainly respond to the subtle personalities.

In the middle of all the fun is a lighthearted message about how much we love our pets. Thankfully the preachy heavy handed message of pet adoption is delivered delicately. There is no agenda in this film but to make us take a look at our pets for what they are; vital members of our family. 

THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS is rated PG for action and some rude humor. It is certainly safe and fin for the whole family. If you have never owned a pet and find them smelly and intrusive then you will probably take very little from this. The majority of the population will delight in seeing their favorite pet brought to animated life. I give it 3 out of 5 retractable leashes. There are moments that shine but most of the better ones have been dulled by mass marketing. 

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