As an animation, you can’t fault The Secret Life Of Pets for its iconic characters, bright colours and delivering a fun-packed film with some laughs thrown in. Under its shiny CGI hood however, is a fundamentally flawed story that shows all of its best bits in the opening fifteen minutes. It leaves the rest of the film struggling to keep up with the frenetic pace the film sets in its opening and consequently never quite achieves the same standard. Its still a good film though, but if you’ve seen the trailer you’ve pretty much seen the best laughs the film has to offer.
Its story follows Max, a dog who’s perfect life with his owner is turned upside down when she brings home a large, shaggy mutt called Duke who begins taking over the house. Predictably, Max and Duke don’t get on and during a fight are seperated from their owner and together with a ragtag group of dysfunctional pets, wind up in a plot to stop adorably cute bunny Snowball (Kevin Hart). Building an army of animals to destroy pet owners, it’s an absolutely bonkers plot line and with Kevin Hart at the helm playing…well…himself, most of the laughs come from him as he mixes quick wit and a sinister edge with the cute, button eyed bunny he plays.
The issues with Secret Life Of Pets stem from its characters and an uneven pace throughout. Aside from a brief glimpse at the mischievous pets at the start of the film during a “montage”, the pets themselves don’t really do anything significant through the film. When glimmers of plot progression do occur for the pets, its never fully explored and worse, some of the plots are even dropped before reaching a satisfying conclusion. This is especially prominent with one specifically for Duke that runs throughout the film and during what should be a conclusive moment, is essentially ignored and never gets a satisfying conclusion. Its frustrating because there are moments of brilliance in this film and some genuinely funny scenes. Story aside, the film is good fun and it doesn’t take itself too seriously but Pets is another case of Illumination getting the character design and animation on point but the story not so much. Its not a deal breaker but it is noticeable at times.
Overall, Secret Life Of Pets is one of those films that’s easily digestable family entertainment, but not quite there in terms of being a memorable title for years to come. Its characters feel under-developed and despite some good laughs, most of them coming in the first 15 minutes, the film doesn’t really have much else going for it. There’s potential here for a decent franchise, especially with Illumination’s track record for great character design but the story is lacking and that’s certainly no secret.