The Secret Life of Pets Voices of Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, Jenny Slate. Directed by Chris Renaud. Rated PG. Opens Friday citywide.
In contrast to animated movies like Toy Story or Wreck-It Ralph, which invent entire intricate worlds for the after-hours lives of their characters (toys, video game characters), The Secret Life of Pets doesn’t get all that creative with its vision of what pets do when their human owners aren’t around. Mostly these dogs, cats and other animals sit around socializing, knock over a few household items and eat any food they can find. So it’s a big deal in the life of loyal dog Max (voiced by Louis C.K.) when his beloved owner gets another dog, a big galoot named Duke (Eric Stonestreet) who starts encroaching on Max’s turf.
When Max and Duke get lost in New York City, they have to put their differences aside to escape from an evil anti-human underground of former pets led by a deceptively cute bunny named Snowball (Kevin Hart), while their animal friends from neighboring apartments try to track them down. The hyperactive story is good for a few laughs and is entirely kid-friendly, with plenty of cute characters and madcap set pieces (escalating perhaps a little too far, to a climax featuring a massive car chase). Secret Life (from the production company behind the Despicable Me movies) isn’t nearly as sophisticated as something from Pixar or even DreamWorks Animation, but it’s a solid summer time-passer as eager to please as an adorable dog wagging its tail.