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The Secret Life of Pets review: a win for friendship and loyalty

Aleesha Matharu | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:48 IST

Ever wondered what your dog does all day while you're out? Or, depending on your choice of pet, your cat/goldfish/bird/lizard/hamster/snake?

The fast-paced, funny and ridiculously adorable The Secret Life of Pets aims to do just that. It's not just about the funny antics that take place at home, which are dealt with in one of the best montages of the year yet (basically: barks at squirrels, eats leftovers from fridge, watches soap operas and chase balls), it's also got a fun yet predictable adventure thrown in.

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Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio, and Brian Lynch's script also includes some clever observations on the dynamic between animals and humans, along with some fun lines thrown in for the grownups. At one point, one dog calls another a "bad dog," though he hesitates to call him this because it's "an insult to our species".

For the revolution!

Louis CK voices Max - who's a generally happy little dog because of the perfect life he leads with his owner Katie (Ellie Kemper). It's also because he gets to hang out all day with his animal pals in the building - Jenny Slate as jumpy Pomeranian Gidget; Lake Bell as chubby, indifferent house cat Chloe; Tara Strong as chickadee Sweet Pea; Bobby Moynahan as pug Mel and Hannibal Buress as dachshund Buddy, who likes to use an electric mixer as a back scratcher.

The first few sequences, most of which we saw in the trailer itself, are the most fun bits of the movie.

It's beyond cute.

So everybody is happy and all Max thinks about is when he'll see Katie again. But then one day Katie returns home with a new dog, a big Chewbacca-like guy named Duke (Eric Stonestreet) and Max gets jealous and feels threatened.

After a minor tiff in the park between the two, the movie shifts gears from being a slice-of-life offering to a high-stakes adventure. Much of the second act consists of a series of chase scenes as Max and Duke run from a gang of former pets (calling themselves the 'Flushed Pets') who were flushed into the NYC sewer system. This renegade gang is led by an adorable-but-psychotic white rabbit named Snowball (Kevin Hart) who's intention is to kill all humans.

Max's friends come looking for him (thanks to a huge push from Gigdet who loves Max) and they enlist a self-loathing friendless hawk (Albert Brooks) to be their eye in the sky.

The best part of the movie is that you actually connect with these characters - which is why even slapstick scenes are more than just bearable. As are the obligatory poo/pee jokes.

That's doubly impressive considering the movie's pets aren't given a tonne of personality through their animation. But what worked phenomenally well is that the voices behind them managed to bring each animal to life. Kevin Hart's Snowball as the wise-cracking ball of energy and fur steals the show though.

The movie thankfully does keep animals as animals, even though the other way around worked well for Zootopia, but that doesn't mean that they don't mess with the law of physics and reason.

The central theme, of course, is responsible pet ownership, but the underlying message is that of friendship and loyalty. Would you leave your friend in a lurch in a difficult situation? Lie your way out? Or just stand up for them and protect them in any way possible?

The animation, as is always the case with Illumination Entertainment's films (Despicable Me, Minions), is crazy colourful and springs off the screen thanks to the 3D.

The verdict

So even though none of this is wholly original, I laughed all the way through the whole runtime - even at jokes that were really dumb or obvious, because they were so expertly delivered.

This is a kid's movie through and through - but for anyone who has loved some furry creature or the other, you'll absolutely love this one.

RATING: 3.5 out of 5

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First published: 7 July 2016, 9:48 IST
Aleesha Matharu @almatharu

Born in Bihar, raised in Delhi and schooled in Dehradun, Aleesha writes on a range of subjects and worked at The Indian Express before joining Catch as a sub-editor. When not at work you can find her glued to the TV, trying to clear a backlog of shows, or reading her Kindle. Raised on a diet of rock 'n' roll, she's hit occasionally by wanderlust. After an eight-year stint at Welham Girls' School, Delhi University turned out to be an exercise in youthful rebellion before she finally trudged her way to J-school and got the best all-round student award. Now she takes each day as it comes, but isn't an eternal optimist.