You don’t have to own a pet to know how much fun they are. These animal companions bring compassion and a playful spirit to our lives that many can’t imagine living without. So it’s fitting, that in a week where we have every reason to feel disheartened, a movie about pets comes along to make us smile a bit.
The Secret Life of Pets stars comedian Louis C.K. as Max, a dog living happily with his owner Katie (Ellie Kemper) until she adopts a larger dog from the pound named Duke (Eric Stonestreet). After their squabbling causes them to both get lost in New York City, they find themselves on the run from Animal Control and from a psychotic bunny rabbit named Snowball (Kevin Hart) who hates humans and the pets who love them. Their hope for rescue lies in the neighboring pets led by a prissy Pomeranian with a crush on Max (Jenny Slate), a chunky, apathetic cat (Lake Bell), a lonely hawk (Albert Brooks), a feisty parakeet (Tara Strong), and a pair of dogs with a major attention problem when squirrels come around (Bobby Moynihan and Hannibal Buress).
The premise may not be all that fresh; think Toy Story meets Homeward Bound. But everything Secret Life of Pets lacks in story, originality and pacing it makes up for in laughs. There are far too many characters in the movie, but each one that pops up on screen will deliver a side splitting joke whether it’s a guinea pig lost in an air ventilation system or a paralyzed, nearly blind basset hound that throws parties because his owner is always away. A fine voice cast helps, and each member of the ensemble fits their character almost perfectly. No one is an example of this more than Kevin Hart, whose hilarious performance as Snowball alone makes the movie worth seeing.
You don’t have to own a pet to find this movie both funny and endearing. And there are certainly more poignant animated films or ones with a better story and flow. But when it comes to sheer humor, The Secret Life of Pets delivers for adults and their kids and I honestly can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard in an animated family film.
FINAL GRADE: A-