Movie Review: The Secret Life of Pets

Ever wonder what your pets do all day while you are at school or work? It is an interesting concept that seemed like a great idea to play on.

Universal Pictures dives in and brings to light to this concept in the 2016 theatrical release, The Secret Life of Pets.

Humans are seen leaving one by one from home, saying bye to their pets. Then glimpses of what the pets do after they are left alone…. from a snobby poodle jamming to heavy metal to a canary envisioning being a fighter jet in a video game.

You are introduced to Max, a Jack Russell Terrier who lives a fun filled life with his owner Katie in a Manhattan apartment. He spends his days away from Katie with his crew (other pets in the building), including an ever hungry tabby cat named Chole, a ditzy pug named Mel, a chill dachshund named Buddy and a budgerigar named Sweetpea, while flirting with the Pomeranian Gidget from across the alleyway  (who has a major crush on Max but too shy to tell him). Life is bliss for this pup.

All that changes one day when Katie brings home a large mongrel named Duke, which sets up an tense power struggle between the two dogs as the focus and attention is now split. Not to mention Duke has a huge chip on his shoulder from time spent in the pound and he is determined to not let Max ruin his chances at a cozy happiness with Katie.

In an attempt to discard his competition, Duke tries to abandon Max in an alley full of rouge cats who are looking for a fight. In the struggle to flee the horde of felines, both dogs’ collars are stolen by the lead Sphynx cat Ozone, leaving Max and Duke unidentified animals. If things couldn’t get worse, after fleeing to safety, Max and Duke are caught by Animal Control and are loaded up to be sent to the pound. Duke begins to have an anxiety attack as he fears that he will be put down if he goes back to the pound.

While trying to figure out how to escape the cages they are locked in, a manic white rabbit named Snowball and his gang of sewer dwelling animals (including a heavily tattooed pig and an alligator) – named “The Flushed Pets”- intercepts and crashes the Animal Control vehicle, and frees captured animals. In order to avoid the wrath of the unstable group; Max and Duke pretend to despise humans as much as they do, citing mistreatment, and even going as far to claim they killed their owners. The Flushed Pets invite the duo to join them, but must prove themselves by letting a viper bite them. This plan almost worked, until the cats who were hunting for them showed up and revealed that they were in fact domesticated. The two dogs escape the sewers, with Snowball and the Flushed Pets in hot pursuit – vowing to kill them for their deception.

Meanwhile, Gidget has discovered that Max is missing. She enlists the help of a red tailed Hawk named Tiberius and the rest of the crew, including a guinea pig named Norman and an old basset hound named Pops, and they search Manhattan for their missing pal. It doesn’t take long before the group runs into Snowball and his crew – who of course vows to kill them too. Norman is captured as the rest of the team flees the attack by the Flushed Pets.

In Brooklyn, Max and Duke raid a sausage factory for food. It is there that Max learns of Duke’s sad story about his previous owner. Duke was adopted as a puppy by an elderly man named Fred who loved Duke and spent all his time with him. One day Duke got lost while chasing a butterfly and was caught by Animal Control. Fred never came to claim him. Max is touched by the story, and is suddenly inspired to convince Duke that they needed to visit Fred’s house in the nearby neighbourhood because he was confident that Fred would still love him and take him back. Much to their surprise though, when they arrive, the new resident cat informs them that Fred had died. Heartbroken, Duke lashes out on Max and the new homeowners as they returned home. Animal Control shows up and Duke distracts them long enough for Max to escape, and Duke is taken away.

Max, filled with guilt, follows the Animal Control vehicle in an attempt to hopefully save Duke. Snowball attacks Max and attempts to kill him, but the plan is quickly derailed when the Flushed Pets gang is captured by Animal Control. Max and Snowball band together to rescue all the captured animals. They hijack a city bus and ram it into the Animal Control vehicle on the Brooklyn Bridge, causing a traffic jam. With all the animals (except for Duke) released, the Flushed pets gang encircles Max, but Gidget and her team swoop in and save him. Gidget’s kung-fu fighting skills makes Max swoon for her.

The Animal Control vehicle falls into the East River with Duke inside. Max dives in to try to help save Duke, but is unable to get the keys to the cage. Snowball jumps in behind him and retrieves them, allowing all three animals to escape the sinking vehicle. Once out of the river, Snowball realizes how good being a hero feels.

The entire group of pets returns to the apartment block by a pig driven taxi. Max expresses his love for Gidget and she returns his affection. While the Flushed Pets still plan to come up with a way to annihilate all humans, Snowball gets caught up in the love of a sudden adoption off the street by a little girl. He quickly realizes the benefits of being a domesticated pet again. The domesticated pets return to their homes and embrace their humans, including Max and Duke, who now have a true friendship and live happily with Katie.

I am one who loves a good animated movie, and it was nice to see one that wasn’t directly made by Pixar. The animation quality is pristine as the imagery is very realistic and environment vibrant. Even the tiny hairs on the animals fur was fairly realistic for high definition. The voice acting packed a punch as many of the characters carried a charged personality that fitted the image of the character well.

This movie was very fun loving to watch and a very refreshing concept. It really seemed realistic to what pets could be doing when the humans aren’t around to watch. While this is, a kid movie, the amount of intended violence by Snowball was a bit disturbing. I understood the concept of the Flushed Pets being upset about being abandoned, but I would rather not think they are secretly planning our demise. I would recommend renting this movie as a nice view with the family as long as the kids are a bit older and can understand that their pet bunny isn’t going to try to stab them with a carrot.

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