By Colm McCall
If the trailers were anything to go by, this was to be an absolute essential movie outing for all dog lovers and pet owners. However, it seems that in today's cinematic sphere, if a animated movie is to succeed it must be of some appeal to adults as well as kids. It is a difficult balancing act to achieve, but when it's done right we can be treated to hits like Big Hero 6 (2014) or Shrek (2001). Does this animation from Illumination Entertainment manage to create a stirring product with the means to live up to the prosperous precedent set by their Despicable Me/Minions universe?
The previews may have alluded to the umpteen correlations between this and the beloved classic Lady and the Tramp (1955), yet on the back of viewing the flick in its entirety, I would be more inclined to compare it to Homeward Bound (1993) and Toy Story (1995). Similar to everybody's favourite sitcom Friends, the events of this tale take place on the storied borough of Manhattan in New York City. A Jack Russell named Max (Louis C.K., Trumbo 2015) has his whole perfect world flip-turned upside down when his beloved owner Katie brings home a much larger boisterous rescue dog called Duke (Eric Stonestreet, Modern Family). Unfortunately, it isn't happy families as the two canines don't exactly see eye to eye. But soon they have to put their quirky quarrels aside for they must join forces against a psychopathic bunny (Kevin Hart, Get Hard 2015) who has built an evil ensemble of equally unstable abandoned pets content on exacting a terrible revenge on the world around them.
Despite the title insinuating a more inclusive range of animals, the film's primary antagonists are dogs. That isn't to say that there aren't some very funny secondary characters; Kevin Hart hilariously voices a villainous rabbit and Tiberius the hawk is played by Albert Brooks (The Simpsons). British comedian Steve Coogan (Philomena 2013) also lends his voice to proceedings, playing a conniving stray cat amidst the Big Apple's backstreet alleys. Despite some memorable roles rendered by an obviously talented cast, the movie as a whole is far from perfect. It is quite funny in parts, but overall the memorable moments are very scantily featured.
If anybody's heart isn't at least slightly warmed by the exploits of our two new pouch pals, they bear a cold heart of stone. But unlike our favourite animated movies of times past, I fear the script and dialogue were overall not strong enough to achieve the longevity of some of it's predecessors. That isn't to say you or your children won't enjoy this film because a good time is almost guaranteed. But you most likely won't be quoting lines from the movie ever again either. From a monetary standpoint, I predict that this project will fall very short in comparison to the longevity and ongoing brand success of some of its close counterparts.
The Secret Life of Pets scores 6.5/10 on the MACmeter.