A bunch of comedians lend their voices to some cartoon characters, and the results are moderately entertaining—hey, it’s not a ringing endorsement, but this is good for a laugh or two, and the occasional whacked-out moment that qualifies it as a semi-original animated movie.
OK, still not a ringing endorsement.
Louis C.K. voices Max, a Jack Russell terrier who loves his master, Katie (Ellie Kemper of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), with that undying loyalty that makes dogs so damn cool. Katie brings home a new brother for Max, a big brown shaggy dog named Duke (Eric Stonestreet), and it creates some turmoil in the household.
Max and Duke wind up in the hands of Animal Control, and eventually fend for themselves in the sewers of Manhattan. There they become enemies of the Flushed Pets, a group consisting of alligators, lizards, snakes and furry critters led by Snowball the Rabbit (Kevin Hart on a sound booth tear). The advertised premise for the film suggests the movie might be about what our pets do in the house when we leave home. That part of the film is out of the way early in the movie’s opening minutes. (They basically eat all of our food, have parties, and listen to punk rock.) The rest of the movie is the band of pets in Max’s neighborhood trying to find him and Duke when they get lost.
Some of the sequences are borderline deranged. Max and Duke wind up in a sausage factory, where they gobble down hot dogs in an almost hallucinatory scene set to Grease’s “We Go Together.” This doesn’t feel like the stuff of kids’ movies; it’s a sequence that seems as if the animators took a little LSD break, came back to their computers, and dreamt up some wild shit.
Where does The Secret Life of Pets rank in the list of animated movies released so far in 2016? Well below Zootopia, and somewhat short of Finding Dory, but still OK. No, you don’t need to run out and see this one, but if it should play in front of your face somewhere in the future, there’s a good chance you will enjoy substantial parts of it.