‘Have you seen Toy Story? Well, imagine that, but with pets!’ You can only assume that was the elevator pitch for The Secret Life of Pets a film that follows what your family friend gets up to when you’re not at home and includes elements of all three Toy Story films.
Max loves his life with his owner Katie until she introduces a new dog to the home, Duke. After falling out the two end up lost in a beautifully animated New York with the Flushed – a gang of flushed pets who wish to kill humans – hunting them down. See what I mean?
Which is alright, because the Toy Story films are brilliant. They have a genuine claim to being the best trilogy of all time. But if you are aping a better film you better have a few good gags up your sleeve, and that’s where The Secret Life of Pets falls short.
Which isn’t to say this is an awful film, it’s not. It’s alright. It’s just never more than alright. And there are some decent gags. The disdainful look of cat Celine as she watches three dogs get excited at a ball before charging off after a small light is simple but effective humour. While the film has a hell of a voice cast, Louis C.K is great as Max the central pup who spends his days sitting at his door waiting for his owner’s return and Kevin Hart’s evil fluffy rabbit Snowball may be simple casting but is effective.
The problem is that it is impossible to get past the feeling that we have seen this all before. People may have their problems with Despicable Me and, in particular, the Minions but at least those films felt fresh and original. Sadly, Secret Life of Pets doesn’t continue that run for Illumination. There is still every chance that this film will do great, particularly having been released around summer holiday time, but it could have been so much better. Cute dogs, though.