Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Secret Life of Pets (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

The Secret Life of Pets

Who among us has not thought that our beloved pets have a separate life when we leave the house? Well, "The Secret Life of Pets" directed by the animation maestro Chris Menaud addresses this issue for all those who wonder. Although it features the same irreverence and glib humor that made "The Despicable Me" series famous, this film has a bouyancy and freshness that the earlier "Minions" did not quite achieve. The film is greatly helped by the cast, many of whom are former members of "Saturday Night Live."

The freewheeling jokes that run as fast as a mouse on methamphetamine will gleefully stop your rationale in its tracks. Max (Louis C.K.), a Jack Russell terrier, gets lost along with the adopted Newfoundland Duke (Eric Stonestreet), Max's new stepbrother. The two get attacked by a cabal of feral city cats and taken to the sewers to meet the adorable but militant miniature bunny Snowball (Kevin Hart), who is obsessed with a revolution against human owners. This bunny, a kind of hybrid between Disney and comedian Chris Rock, steals the show.

The film is at its best when it highlights the personalities of these eccentric pets rather than their hyperkinetic hijinks of good versus evil. There are a few battles of survival, fights, and confrontations with animal control that become repetitive and glaze the eyes. Yet Pops (Dana Carvey), an elderly paralyzed basset hound on two wheels is a laugh riot as is the matter of fact Louis C.K., true to form and as unsentimental as ever.

As the narrative accelerates there is a missed opportunity to make a larger statement on animal cruelty, highllighted by Kevin Hart, ( a kind of Pet Lives Matter, with the motto "Liberate Forever, Domesticate Never"), which could have underscored the spiritual and almost interpersonal relationship with our furry family members. While this subplot is largely dropped in favor of Max and Duke reaching home with fuzzy sight gags of fat cats and kvetching canines, "Pets" remains a vivid and beastly brouhaha that is sure to charm both cat people and dog lovers alike.

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