By Liz Lopez

Rating: B+

I have been watching the trailer for Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures’ The Secret Life of Pets over the past few months now, and I was hooked by several of the scenes with the talking pets and their activities as soon as their owners left the home. I anticipated quite a few high jinks as the trailer reveals to the viewers, but I certainly did not anticipate the introduction of an angry bunny, Snowball (voiced by Kevin Hart) who is leading an underground organization ready to revolt against the house pets and their owners. They have abandonment issues and decide to get even. I felt the gleeful giddiness drop down a notch at that moment with some of the scenes that might not be what parents of very small children may think is appropriate for them. Over all, the animated comedy film is entertaining, but I certainly agree with this PG rating, as parental guidance is suggested for the scenes of disgruntled pets vs. pampered pets.

The story written by Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio and Brian Lynch features a dog named Max (voiced by Louis C. K.) who appears very happy with his owner, Katie (Ellie Kemper), until she returns one day with the big shaggy Duke (voiced by Eric Stonestreet). He does not take kindly to sharing his abode, his owner and least of all, his bed. The rivalry and resentment builds up to a point where they find themselves in deep trouble and they have to learn to work together to survive the challenges out in the streets.

Lucky for Max and Duke, the fellow house pets (cats, dogs, birds and more) in the community that know them become worried when they don’t return from the park with the others. The closest buds are Chloe (a blue cat voiced by Lake Bell), Gidget (a white fluff dog voiced by Jenny Slate), Buddy (a dachshund voiced by Hannibal Buress). Among other celebrities who voice other dogs, a guinea pig, birds, lizards and more are Pops (Dana Carvey), Tiberius the raptor (Albert Brooks), Mel (Bobby Moynihan) as well as Ozone / Reginald (Steve Coogan).

All along, I had thought the highlight of the film might be the white dog that prefers his music loud when his pin – striped suited owner leaves home. To my surprise, the humor I enjoyed comes from Gidget, as she becomes the leader of the pack that decides to go out and look for Max. Turns out, this princess has been quietly love struck (but somewhat in denial up to this point) and she becomes fierce in her pursuit for her man. She does not stand down from any size creature that decides to get in the way. The scenes of this pampered pet becoming an action heroine is quite cute and unexpected.

Illumination founder and CEO Chris Meledandri and his longtime collaborator Janet Healy produce the film directed by Chris Renaud (Despicable Me, Despicable Me 2) and Yarrow Cheney. The Secret Life of Pets opens nationwide in theaters July 8, 2016 and is rated PG (Parental guidance suggested).

Source:  Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures

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