Starring: Louis C. K., Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart, Jenny Slate, Ellie Kemper, Albert Brooks, Lake Bell, Dana Carvey, Hannibal Buress, Bobby Moynihan, Chris Renaud, Steve Coogan, Michael Beattie, and more.
Directed by: Yarrow Cheney and Chris Renaud Written by: Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio, and Brian Lynch Art Direction by: Colin Stimpson Music by: Alexandre Desplat
Premise: Max loves his owner. She is everything to him. Then one day she brings home a huge dog named Duke. They don't get along. Each tries to get rid of the other until they get in a situation they can't escape, except by relying on one another. If they survive, maybe they will make it back home. (Rated PG)
1) Voice Acting - Total Thumbs Up: Illumination picked a great cast for the film. Louis C.K. does a great job as Max. His love for his master and resentment at the intruder Duke rings clear. Eric Stonestreet also does a good job as the new dog, Duke. His warring need to fit in and be top dog was well played.
Kevin Hart was a ton of fun as the rebellion leading bunny, Snowball. But it was Jenny Slate, Albert Brooks, and Lake Bell that brought the most fun to the table as Gidget, Tiberius, and Chloe. Gidget totally rocked! Dana Carvey was a hoot as Pops.
2) Artwork/Animation - Total Thumbs Up: Illumination did awesome work as usual. The Minions Mowing story short at the beginning will have Minion fans rolling. One bit that was too cute was how the lawn gnome in the short ends up also being used during the main feature.
They did several other cute segues to other Illumination films. The radio playing "Happy" which tied back to "Despicable Me 2". The poster on the back of a city bus for their next film "Sing". There are doubtless more of them to discover. :)
The film pays lovely homage to the city of New York. The lovely pan across Central Park and the amazing night views from Max's apartment are but two of many amazing recreated sights.
Nice work on the textures as well. They dealt with fur, feathers, scales, long hair, short hair, and even hairless. And there were plenty of lovely visual gags. Several will catch you off guard and you will find yourself laughing out loud. As that's normally rare for me, I was quite pleased. (The end of the viper sequence was a riot!)
3) Plot/Story - Total Thumbs Up: Despite all the jillion commercials we've been pounded with for six months or more - they didn't give everything away. In fact, the story takes some unexpected sharp turns several times. And they didn't spoil the best jokes or moments. So there was a lot to still be discovered. Which was great!
Max and Duke are rather nasty to each other when they're first forced to be together. So much so you almost don't want to root for either one. Eventually we get to know more about their true selves and we get on board. Much more surprising though was how the big heroes of the film aren't Max or Duke. The biggest hero is actually Gidget! Once she realizes Max has disappeared she is the driving force to finding a way to go look for him. Sweet puppy love! :)
The Flushed Pets Rebels were a fun bunch. So were the feral cat gang. There were a lot of elements from the streets, older films/musicals, and pet behavior. It's amazing how it all came together so well.
The Wiener King nirvana sequence will touch older audience members with weird psychedelic nostalgia. Even the song was perfect for the scene.
Conclusion: The Secret Life of Pets is quirky, fun, and full of surprises. Lots of great laugh out loud moments for the kids and adults. There's a extra bit of fun during the end credits. :P
Rating: 4 out of 5 (Hubby's Rating: Worth Full Price to See Again.)