Louis CK, Ellie Kemper, Jenny Slate and Eric Stonestreet star in this animated comedy from the creators of Despicable Me and Minions that's essentially a retread of Toy Story except with pets. While it's a bit on the predictable side, both the animation and the interplay between the actors is just enough to keep it from being forgettable.
nimals and animated films aren't anything particular new, but it's still interesting to see studios and writers try to come up with new and unusual ways to put them together. Already this year, we've seen anthropomorphised animals in a LA Confidential / Chinatown setting with Zootopia whilst The Secret Life Of Pets takes it on a familiar route ala Toy Story. Max (Louis CK) is a loyal dog to a little-seen human who's put upon when another dog (Eric Stonestreet) is forced into his idyllic life. At first, Max is more concerned with keeping the larger dog under his thumb, but when the two get picked up by Animal Control, it turns into survival. Meanwhile, Max's friends (Lake Bell, Jenny Slate, Bobby Moynihan, Hannibal Buress) try their best to rescue Max and Duke, with the help of a hawk voiced by Al Brooks.
hat's essentially it for plot and, as you can tell, it's essentially Toy Story by way of animals. What makes The Secret Life Of Pets more than just a rehash is that it has a cast of comedic actors working together, not just well-known voices whom people will instantly recognise. The choices are, well, are interesting as almost everyone's playing against type. Louis CK, for example, is a ball of enthusiasm as Max whilst Eric Stonestreet is playing a rough, tough Newfoundlander who's just trying to survive.
l Brooks, meanwhile, plays a murderous (in that animated comedy sort of way) hawk called Tiberius whilst Lake Bell is an overweight cat who's essentially a sociopath. Yet, both CK and Stonestreet fit their roles completely whilst Brooks calls to mind The Jungle Book's Kaa with his vocal mannerisms. The real star of the show, however, is Kevin Hart as the ruthless Snowball, a former magician's rabbit who leads a band of forgotten animals known as The Flushed Pets. Hart makes for some of the best comedic setpieces in the film, particularly his reference to a deceased comrade and an initiation rite involving a snake. 
t's clear that the comedic cast are making the most of what's essentially a rote script with familiar beats, and more credit should go to the casting director than the director himself. The animation and design is similar in a fashion to Despicable Me, overly stylised visions and heightened colourings, whilst Alexandre Desplat's jazzy score fits in nicely with the frothy nature of the story. While it might not have the emotional depth and impact as Toy Story, it's still a lot of fun and the consistent laughs more than make up for that.
robably one of the best animated films you're likely to see this year.