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The Secret Life of Pets

This animated comedy isn’t nearly as clever as it could be

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From the people who brought you the Minions — Chris Renaud and Yarrow Cheney — comes this digitally animated comedy about what a collection of New York City dogs, cats, birds, rabbits and so on get up to when their owners are gone during the day. This would seem to open up so many fanciful possibilities, but in this film, the critters just do the same things funny animals do in most other animated movie and beer commercials: They party; they get lost or kidnapped; they have crazy frantic chases through the city; and they make new friends from old enemies. It’s a disappointing failure of imagination that perhaps could have been overcome if the film had more heart.

The voicework ranges from good — Louis C.K. is the star dog — to shut-up-already (Kevin Hart doing his shouty thing as a gangster-ish bunny), but too many of the jokes are lame. (When approaching a sewer, somebody asks what smells bad. The reply: “It’s poopoo with a hint of caca.” Seriously not funny.) The animation is good, and despite the ridiculousness of the plot, there were nice details about how actual animals move and behave. But I’m still left unconvinced that pets aren’t just sleeping all day. 

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