THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS
Direction: Chris Renaud and Yarrow Cheney
Voices: Louis CK, Kevin Hart
Displaying the same striking combination of sight, sound and story as their two Despicable Me movies, co-directors Chris Renaud and his former production designer Yarrow Cheney bring to life a veritable menagerie of domesticated animals in The Secret Life of Pets.
Another in a long line of family-centric animated escapades, the computer-generated romp is reminiscent of Pixar’s pioneering Toy Story franchise.
As with the toys, the pets too constantly vie for their owners’ affection. But what do they get up to when the master isn’t around? Left to their own devices, the critters run rampant through the streets, alleyways and sewers of New York City.
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Chief among the cast of charming characters is a cheerful canine (delightfully dubbed by Louis CK). The devoted terrier lives a pampered life with his petite owner (Ellie Kemper) in her Manhattan apartment. That is, until a new pooch arrives, an excitable mongrel (Eric Stonestreet) that threatens his status as top dog.
A game of one-upmanship ensues as the rival pets engage in a series of captivating misadventures.
Soon enough, though, they are forced to set their differences aside when a gang of abandoned animals, led by a psychotic white bunny (Hart), ignites a revolution against heartless pet owners.
The feuding mutts also have to contend with overzealous officers from the dog pound.
Besides the protagonist duo and their prime adversary, animals of all stripes -- including a lovelorn Pomeranian (Jenny Slate), an obese feline (Lake Bell) and a ravenous hawk (Albert Brooks) -- are on hand to provide the requisite fun quotient.
On the downside, there are some lame attempts at humour such as a fantasy sequence set in a sausage factory. The frenetic, anything-goes approach tends to become tedious after a while too.
Although the 3D effects aren’t top-notch, the replication of the bustling New York skyline is artful. The animation and design teams have also taken commendable care to capture the quirkiness of an entire cast of animal characters.
The jazz-inflected background score by veteran composer Alexandre Desplat is supplemented by musical selections from Taylor Swift, Bill Withers and Pharrell Williams.
Kevin Hart, the voice of the vendetta-seeking bunny, is a standout even in the prolific array of vocal talent.
All seen and savoured, Secret Life of Pets makes for an ideal rainy-day matinée.