Thursday, July 7, 2016

'Pets' with a cartoon kick

The Secret Life of Pets asks a question that's rich in both comic and dramatic potential. When owners leave their pets behind and head off to work, what do those lonely animals do? The team behind Despicable Me and Minions answers the questions in ways that turn The Secret Life of Pets into a jaunty series of cartoon-like episodes. Here's what happens: A terrier named Max (voice by Louis C.K.) lives a wonderful existence with an owner who loves him and whom he adores. Max's life is upset when his owner introduces a new pet into Max's environment, a large, floppy dog named Duke (Eric Stonestreet). Instant antagonists, Max and Duke are nonetheless destined to form a lasting bond. They do this by escaping into the streets of Manhattan, where they meet Snowball (Kevin Hart), a rambunctious rabbit who leads a movement aimed at liberating all animals from the humiliations of domestication. Additional characters include a rather large cat (Lake Bell) and a Pomeranian (Jenny Slate). Secret Life builds toward an action-oriented finale that no doubt will appeal to younger audiences, but struck me as a tad charmless. I don't know if Secret Life of Pets will knock Finding Dory off its box-office pedestal -- it probably will -- but both movies feature work from Albert Brooks, who, in this case, provides the voice of a hawk. I'm not sure that's a step up from the fish to which Brooks gave voice in Finding Dory, but I look forward to the time when he gets back to being human.

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