Chris Renaud’s animated New York City-set movie The Secret Life of Pets is overflowing with fluff. Among the domesticated creatures designed to challenge curmudgeons and animal-haters are the noble Jack Russell terrier Max (voiced by Louis CK), shaggy Newfoundland Duke (Eric Stonestreet), pot-bellied Chloe (Lake Bell), eyelash-batting Pomeranian Gidget (Jenny Slate), and dim-witted pug Mel (Bobby Moynihan). Left to their own devices after their owners take off for work, these spoilt Manhattanites live the good life, and Max thinks he has it all worked out with his owner. When she brings home Duke one day, Max’s balance is upset, but the differently-sized canines find a common cause in the form of the rabbit Snowball (Kevin Hart).
Snowball looks as cute as his name, but he is actually the deranged leader of a revolution against humans who abandon their pets (a noble cause that has our vote). Operating from the sewers of Manhattan where New York City’s exotic ex-pets have taken refuge, Snowball is all set to wage war on humankind and “leash lovers” like Max and Duke.
How, exactly? Don’t ask. Produced by Illumination Entertainment, responsible for the fun-at-all costs Despicable Me series and Minions, The Secret Life of Pets is merrily short on purpose and logic. The movie aims low and hits its target via a parade of gorgeously detailed creatures whose expressions match their breeds (the perfectly groomed Pomeranian is a hoot) and giggle-inducing sight gags (a Dachshund that uses an egg beater for back massages, a semi-crippled basset hound).
In the hierarchy of animation, Pixar stands for profundity and Disney for sentimental anthropomorphised creatures with messages to deliver. Illumination aims for nothing more than pushing the boundaries of animation in the service of a knee-slapping time. The Secret Life of Pets is beautifully realised but often misses the zaniness of Despicable Me and Minions (which was co-directed by Renaud and Pierre Coffin). The dialogue is less funny than the antics of the scatterbrain animals and birds. American comedian Kevin Hart, playing the insanely cute and cutely insane Snowball, has the best lines and scenes, but they sometimes whiz by too fast in a movie that never slows down for fear of losing the attention of its young demographic. Snowball does make the film’s weightiest observation: “Everything’s going to Brooklyn these days!”