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Secret Life of Pets, The (3D)


Stars: Voices: 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

Director: Chris Renaud; Co-director: Yarrow Cheney

Ignore auteurist family entertainment.

Disney/Pixar may be in prime position but they no longer are the dominant creator of animated movies. Nowadays family-oriented animated flicks are endemic, produced by, among many studios, Studio Ghibli, Nickelodeon, Warner Bros Animation, Sony and Aardman.

Here Illumination Entertainment/Universal’s fifth feature collaboration meets this reviewer’s key requirement for a family film – lashings of lively comedy-action entertainment for youngsters and, serendipitously, enough sly and cynical comic touches to prevent accompanying adults from needing to reach for their sleeping pills during the screening.

Ken Daurio, Cinco Paul and Brian Lynch’s broad screenplay meets all the key storyline requirements the title heralds, and adds quite a few zany aspects to a version of Manhattan that might have left Kelly, Sinatra and Munshin more than a tad bewildered when they went On the Town way back in 1949.

At the start the audience, like Max (“I’m the luckiest dog in New York”), is confined to owner Katie ’s Manhattan apartment and Max could not be happier.

The spanner (not spaniel!) in his idyllic works arrives in the shaggy shape of large and demanding canine Duke who, rescued by Katie, takes over both the flat and Max’s idyllic lifestyle; and it ends up with the two pooches having to live on the city streets and forced to try and thwart the wild efforts of deranged rabbit Snowball, who commands an army of abandoned pets out to get their revenge against humanity…

All animal life is here, among them rats, bats, cats (including a foolish feline boasting a suitably sneering British accent voiced by Steve ‘Alan Partridge’ Coogan who, as usual, is better heard then seen), snakes and crocodiles and birds of prey set on sorting out Mankind and, to the credit of the screenwriters, director Chris Minions Renaud and co-director, Yarrow Cheney, there are enough loony thrills and action to keep kids happy and not keep adults checking their watches.

Vocal casting is apt (I particularly enjoyed Dana Carrvey speaking for an elderly but keen-to-go pooch with paralysed hind legs), the animation is attractive and while The Secret Life of Pets doesn’t actually breed anything really ground-breakingly original in its storyline or animation, most youngsters (and accompanying adults) would be barking not to enjoy themselves.

Alan Frank

USA 2016. UK Distributor: U. Colour.
90 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: U.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 25 Jun 2016