Review: ‘Secret Life of Pets’ squanders great premise

Ever wonder what your pets are up to when you’re not home? Probably something better than this generic animal adventure

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

“The Secret Life of Pets” has a title that sells itself. Who hasn’t wondered what our pets are up to, behind closed doors, while we’re away?

The title, it turns out, is the best thing about “The Secret Life of Pets.” Once the story kicks in, “Pets” becomes a generic talking animals adventure with predictable gags, stock situations and not enough heart to elevate it above the competition.

A voice cast that includes Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, Bobby Moynihan and Dana Carvey doesn’t add any life to the characters or the material. Only Kevin Hart, voicing a bunny hellbent on world domination, makes an impression, but an animated bunny is far from the best fit for Hart’s manic talents.

The movie starts with Max, a Jack Russell Terrier voiced by Louis C.K., who gets jealous when his owner brings home Duke (Stonestreet), a big ol’ Newfoundland who barges in and makes himself at home. One day when out for a walk, the two lose their way and wind up being dragged into an underworld of street animals (including Snowball, the leader bunny voiced by Hart). It’s up to Duke’s pals from his apartment building to save them and bring them back to safety, all before their owners arrive home.

“Despicable Me” 1 and 2 director Chris Renaud (who co-directed with Yarrow Cheney) keeps the action coming at a brisk pace, and the film is as loud and busy as expected from modern cartoons. But there’s nothing deeper at play, no clever animal insights, and nothing that makes good on that great title. You come hoping for a “Toy Story” about cats and dogs, you end up with “Ice Age” with domesticated animals.

agraham@detroitnews.com

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Twitter: @grahamorama

‘The Secret Life of Pets’

GRADE: C

Rated PG for action and some rude humor

Running time: 91 minutes