The Secret Life of Pets Early Reviews: A Fun Madcap Adventure

The Secret Life of Pets Super Bowl TV spot

On the heels of Finding Dory breaking animated movie box office records out of the gate, another cartoon feature film is also making waves this weekend. Reviews have started coming in for Illumination Entertainment’s The Secret Life of Pets, which received its world premiere this past week at France’s Annecy International Animation Film Festival and is scheduled to be released in the United States on July 8th.

Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet and Kevin Hart make their animated feature film debut in The Secret Life of Pets, a comedy about the lives are pets lead after we leave for work or school each day. Set in Manhattan, C.K. voices a Jack Russell Terrier named Max, who has to deal with the new dog in his home, Duke (Stonestreet). Things then escalate quickly when the pair learn of an ambitious, crazy white rabbit, Snowball (Hart), that has big plans for his fellow pets.

The Secret Life of Pets is Illumination Entertainment’s fifth fully-animated feature-film, following Despicable Me, The Lorax, Despicable Me 2 and Minions. And it sounds like it will continue the production company's great work, judging by the first wave of reviews. According to Variety, audiences reported frequent laughter throughout the movie and a final enthusiastic two-minutes of applause.

The Secret Life of Pets trailer and poster

Below, you can read a rundown of what several critics thought of the film:

ScreenDaily - Wendy Ide

The latest film from Chris Renaud (Despicable Me) and his team is a madcap caper full of densely-packed sight gags, dizzying action set pieces and a healthy side-helping of Renaud trademark silliness. While it lacks the equivalent of the small, yellow USP of the Despicable Me series, this should still generate healthy returns from family audiences for Universal. The likeable central characters could potentially sustain at least one of the almost inevitable sequels which will follow.

THR - Jordan Mintzer

Funny in stretches but capable of making you feel like you’ve dropped MDMA and locked yourself inside Petco for several hours, this big-ticket Universal release should play like catnip for kids starting summer vacation, though it’s unlikely to dig up the massive $1 billion bone of this year’s other anthropomorphic blockbuster, Zootopia.

Variety - Peter Debruge

In what may as well be Illumination’s answer to “Toy Story,” “The Secret Life of Pets” imagines how domesticated animals behave while their owners’ backs are turned, concentrating on a dynamic where newly adopted dog Duke (“Modern Family” star Eric Stonestreet, in the Buzz Lightyear role) disrupts the balance in a household where Max (Louis C.K., as the Woody equivalent) had previously been his human’s best friend. The formula may be familiar, but the personalities are completely fresh, yielding a menagerie of loveable — if downright ugly — cartoon critters banding together to help these two incompatible roommates from ending up on the streets.

RTE Entertainment -

Guaranteed to have you thinking about adding to your own family, The Secret Life of Pets is perfectly cast, serves up the laughs and life lessons in equal measure and comes up with so many great characters that a sequel is imperative. Next time 'round they need to give Louis C.K. and Eric Stonestreet a bigger slice of the side-splitting though, because while Max and Duke are a great double act Kevin Hart as mouth almighty Snowball and Lake Bell as jaded tabby Chloe get all the killer one-liners. A spin-off is well in order, and here's hoping for cameos in next summer's Despicable 3.

The Secret Life of Pets Trailer #3

While reviews were overwhelming positive, there were a few naysayers that thought The Secret Life Of Pets should have showed a bit of restraint. Complaints include the claim that there's just too much action and not enough time to settle in and feel the animals' plight. Others says the laughs present in the beginning are taken over by craziness in what amounts to a wild ride:

IndieWire - Ben Croll

How’s this for a shock: it turns out this summer’s biggest, wildest action flick is… about talking dogs. Stranger things have happened, but there it is.  “The Secret Life of Pets” moves like a bat out of hell from frame one, though if you’re looking for any kind of emotion you might be barking up the wrong tree.

MoviePilot - James Porter

The set up and concept for The Secret Life Of Pets is fun and director Chris Renaud provides a solid opening for the film, showing each animal go about their daily routine once their owner leaves the apartment, but once the plot kicks in and our characters leave the comfort of their homes, proceedings become a little too predictable and the film gradually tires itself out with loud and obnoxious characters getting into loud and tedious sequences. The biggest crime of Illumination's latest is that is takes a relatively fun concept in far too many familiar directions.

The film may not have the emotional and grown-up appeal of Toy Story, which many critics are comparing it to, but there's still something fascinating about following your pets as they go about their lives. So whether funny or loony, The Secret Life Of Pets is shaping up to be a fun adventure for the whole family.

The Secret Life of Pets opens in U.S. theaters on July 8th, 2016.

Source: Various (see the above links)

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