A Persian Cafe, Edward Lord Weeks

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Review: The Secret Life of Pets

Yesterday I was at the birthday celebration of an old school friend, a celebration which consisted of a film, Chinese buffet and visits to a couple of pubs. The point is that there were eight or nine of us at a cinema, intending to watch a film, but without any particular films that any of us strongly wanted to see. Consequently we decided to see the fluffy children's film The Secret Life of Pets, expecting that it couldn't be too bad and might deliver a few laughs. On this modest aspiration, I am happy to report that it delivered.

Max (Louis C.K.), Duke (Eric Stonestreet), and Katie (Ellie Kemper).
Given the initial set-up, the rest of the film is very predictable. Max is a blokish terrier living in New York with his owner, a cute young woman who plays no role after the first eight minutes. During the day he eagerly awaits her return, but also hangs out with the neighbouring pets - none of whom would suffer from a few extra brain cells. One day Katie brings home a new dog named Duke to be Max's "brother", but inevitably the two fail to get along with each other. Their rivalry, along with the incompetence of Katie's dog-walker, causes the two to be stranded across the city without their collars. From here they must get back home while avoiding capture by the hapless animal control officers, by a posse of stray cats (the leader of whom is inexplicably a cockney), and by a sewer gang of abandoned pets - led, of course, by a tiny bunny rabbit. By the end of the film Max and Duke have resolved their differences; given that the great bulk of the film somehow takes place within a single workday, I was gratified that this is presented less as actual character growth than merely coming to accept each other as "not so bad after all".

Pearson's Law of kids' films: The cuter the critter, the more vicious it is.
Overall the film is a perfectly adequate way to keep your kids amused for a couple of hours. I have to agree with another critic who remarked that it will be just as good to see on DVD as it is to see in cinema, not to mention a lot cheaper. There are plenty of children's films which will do more to keep the adults amused as well, but The Secret Life of Pets is worthy of a perfectly respectable three stars out of five.

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