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By Charlie David Page
4th September 2016

I had my fair share of pets growing up. Mainly dogs (my family are definitely what you call dog people), but also cats, guinea pigs, sheep, cows, chickens... Each kind of animal has its own personality traits, and at times, you have to wonder what's going on inside their heads to do the things they do; we had one dog who would go absolutely mad at the sound of alfoil. For a small insight, 'The Secret Life Of Pets' delves into the day-to-day activities of man's best friend, and ends up becoming an animated action comedy along the way.

Max is the happiest dog alive. He and his owner Katie have a special relationship that could never be broken... or so Max thought. One day, when Katie brings home the giant, slobbering stray Duke, life in the apartment is turned upside down. When a vicious rabbit named Snowball saves them from a trip to the pound, they must escape his evil clutches. But will the mutts ever make it home?

If you've seen the first trailer released for 'The Secret Life Of Pets', detailing each animal's daily routine when their humans go off to work, the first quarter of this film is going to be no surprise to you. Aside from a few bonus tidbits, this starts off as an extended version of the trailer. However, past this point is where things really get good - the action begins, and all that character development gets put to good use. There are multiple memorable moments in the film - from Pomeranian Gidget's hard-core interrogation of an alley cat to a sausage-fuelled hallucinogenic musical number - there's a good balance of humour littered throughout.


The bar has really been raised for animation in the past few years - in terms of storyline, character and the technique itself. 'The Secret Life Of Pets' comes to us from Illumination, the folks behind the 'Despicable Me' movies, but reminds me stylistically of 'Megamind' (2010). This film sits comfortably towards the higher end of the animation scale: not quite up there with Pixar's finest, but with a fun script, distinctive (and adorable) characters, and enough emotion to keep you and the family entertained.

The voice cast all do top-notch jobs to help bring these animals to life. Louis C.K. ('Trumbo', 'American Hustle') is surprisingly spot-on as the adorable dog Max. Creating a likability for the main character is a balancing act, giving his personality traits, which could have ended in him being irritating or loathsome. Lake Bell as Chloe the calorie-loving cat is consistently capable, playing Max's self-centred best friend. Jenny Slate puts some high-pitched attitude into Gidget, who'll stop at nothing to track down her unrequited love. There are so many stand-out characters, which have been both well-written and portrayed.

This film sits comfortably towards the higher end of the animation scale: not quite up there with Pixar's finest, but with a fun script, distinctive (and adorable) characters, and enough emotion to keep you and the family entertained.

Despite all the cute, fluffy animals on show, 'The Secret Life Of Pets' is much darker than you would expect. Most of this will go over young ones' heads thanks to the bright colours and crazy creatures, but parents will definitely pick up on it. Adding to this is Kevin Hart's portrayal of Snowball - he's having about as much fun as you can as a G-rated villain. This means adults don't have to miss out if they take kids to see the film... or perhaps want to see it on their own.

As the cavernous cinematic hole between July and December nears its darkest depths, it's reassuring to know there are still some movies out there worth watching. While perhaps not quite as fulfilling as some animated films these days, 'The Secret Life Of Pets' has so much going for it that you'll find it hard not to enjoy the ride. With a rollicking story and loveable characters, it's impossible not to have fun - and who could say no to those adorable animals?

RELEASE DATE: 08/09/2016
CAST: Louis C.k.
Eric Stonestreet
Kevin Hart
Ellie Kemper
Albert Brooks
Lake Bell
Steve Coogan
DIRECTORS: Chris Renaud
Yarrow Cheney
WRITERS: Brian Lynch
Cinco Paul
Ken Daurio
PRODUCERS: Chris Meledandri
Janet Healy
SCORE: Alexandre Desplat
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