The Bock’s Office: ‘Secret Life of Pets’ cuddles into your heart despite unoriginality |

The Bock’s Office: ‘Secret Life of Pets’ cuddles into your heart despite unoriginality

Max and his owner, Katie, (voices of Louis CK and Ellie Kemper) enjoy each other's company in "The Secret Life of Pets." The movie is about a terrier who feels threatened by a new dog in his home, only for both animals to get lost in New York City.
Courtesy Photo

If you go...

“The Secret Life of Pets,” rated PG

Rating: 2.5 out of 4 stars

Running time: 90 minutes

Starring the voices of: Louis CK, Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart and Jenny Slate

Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.

In viewing a movie like “The Secret Life of Pets,” it would help to see things through the eyes of a dog or cat. This isn’t so much to relate to the main characters as it is to keep the short attention span necessary to enjoy a cartoon that’s pretty repetitive.

If you go…

“The Secret Life of Pets,” rated PG

Rating: 2.5 out of 4 stars

Running time: 90 minutes

Starring the voices of: Louis CK, Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart and Jenny Slate

Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.

For almost his entire life, Max (voice of Louis CK) has been fixated on one person: his owner, Katie (Ellie Kemper). The Jack Russell terrier lives a happy life in New York City with her, and the only times he has known discomfort are the stretches of the day when she is out of the apartment.

Max has a nasty surprise in store for him one day when he learns he’ll have to share Katie’s affection, as she brings home another dog: Duke (Eric Stonestreet), a massive, slobbery, possessive mutt.

Both canines make it clear to the other that there’s only room for one top dog in the household, but their attempts to be rid of one another result in them getting lost on the streets without their collars.

While a trip to the pound seems imminent, Max and Duke instead find themselves in the company of the Flushed Pets, a renegade group of animals who have sworn vengeance on humanity, led by a rabbit named Snowball (Kevin Hart) with designs on taking over the whole city.

With his star on the rise, it makes sense that comedian CK would jump into animation, though he seems to be taking baby steps by playing Max, a dog that doesn’t demand much characterization other than being, well, a dog. Max’s utter averageness and lack of any quirks makes him the easiest role to give a voice because how do you convey traits like loyalty and a taste for sausages?

Stonestreet offers more as Duke, who first tries to be friendly to his new brother but doesn’t waste time throwing his weight around when it’s clear he isn’t appreciated.

Jenny Slate is fun as Max and Duke’s neighbor, Gidget, a supremely pampered Pomeranian whose addiction to soap operas is second only to her intense crush on Max, ready to take on the whole world when she discovers he’s missing, even if it means leaving her cushy digs and teaming up with a streetwise hawk (Albert Brooks), a cocky dachsund (Hannibal Buress), a dimwitted pug (Bobby Moynihan) and a tubby tabby (Lake Bell), as well as an elderly Basset hound (Dana Carvey) who doesn’t let his mobility cart slow him down.

Hart is easily the breakout here, though, giving pure electricity to the bunny of your nightmares — tiny, fluffy and completely psychotic. His distinctive voice proves big things come in small packages, and Snowball’s master plan — which makes more sense if you exclusively read scribbles — is grandiose to say the least, earning him the right to cackle madly.

Just look away when his excitement causes him to make pellets…

Besides having the name of a villain in common, there are echoes of “Animal Farm” mixed with the basic plot of the first “Toy Story” in Illumination Entertainment’s newest cartoon, which starts off with a reminder of the studio’s trademark characters with the short “Mower Minions.”

The musical score by Alexandre Desplat and animation are top-notch, capturing the realistic motions and behaviors of domestic animals in their everyday life. You know, a Chihuahua that shakes like it’s in an earthquake, a cat that bats around a toy mouse and then gets it stuck on its paw, a poodle that head-bangs to heavy metal, the normal stuff. And just wait until rubber balls and laser pointers are brought into the mix.

It’s fortunate that the smaller stuff works because it’s when we get into the wider world that we get the exact kind of story you’d expect, with next to no attempt to veer away from the traditional storyline we’ve seen dozens of times before.

The kids in the theater will likely have no complaints, though, and even the adults who recognize the same old-same old won’t really mind once it looks at you with pleading eyes and melts your heart.

Who’s a good target audience? Who’s a good target audience?

“The Secret Life of Pets” coasts by on simple sweetness, a series of cute animal gags you’d want to see your furry friends perform and for all you know are doing right now.

Go on, check and see if your high-speed mixer is worn out from giving out tummy rubs.

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or or follow him on Twitter @TheBocksOffice.

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