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Movie Night – ‘Secret Life of Pets’ offers answer to what they do when left alone

By Bradley Griffith

Animation domination!  “Finding Dory” set a record with the highest opening weekend at the box office for an animated film with over $135 million dollars and held the top spot for three weeks, until “The Secret Life of Pets” took the number one position with an opening weekend of $104 million.  Animation, it seems, is the king of the 2016 box office.

Have you ever wondered what your pets do when you’re not at home?  “The Secret Life of Pets” offers you an imaginative answer to that question.  Max (voiced by Louis C.K.) is a lovable terrier who lives in an apartment building in New York City with his owner, Katie (Ellie Kemper).  Max wants nothing more than to hang out with his other pet friends and love Katie.  He spends most of his days staring at the door waiting for Katie to come home from work.

Max has plenty of friends from his building and other nearby buildings.  All of his friends are pets. There’s lovable Gidget (Jenny Slate), a fluffy white Pomeranian, a fat cat named Chloe (Lake Bell) who lives upstairs, Dachsund Buddy (Hannibal Buress), a Pug named Mel (Bobby Moynihan), and many others.  While their owners are away, these pets have a life of their own, an entire world that goes unseen by their owners.

Max’s idyllic life is turned upside down when Katie brings home Duke (Eric Stonestreet).  Duke is a massive mutt with shaggy brown hair and a giant tongue.  He’s also a giant thorn in Max’s side.  Duke takes over Max’s bed and eats his food.  Most importantly to Max, he takes some of Katie’s affection.

Max devises a plan to get rid of Duke.  If he can make Duke look like a bad dog, Max believes that Katie will take Duke back to the pound. Max’s plan backfires when Duke decides to get rid of Max by taking him to a nearby alley and unceremoniously dumping him in a trash can.

Soon Max and Duke are running for their lives.  They are rescued from animal control by a deranged rabbit known as Snowball (Kevin Hart).  Snowball is the leader of the flushed pets, pets who were no longer wanted by their owners.  Max and Duke spend the rest of the movie trying to find their way home while remaining one step ahead of animal control and as far away as they can get from Snowball and his gang.

“The Secret Life of Pets” is funny and cute and will appeal to most of your family.  Most of the movie takes place during one hectic day and it makes you wonder if your pets get involved in what seems like great adventures to them when you’re not home. The movie at least gets you thinking about what might be going on at home while you’re away.

The best part of the movie is how accurately it reflects the habits of different animals and breeds. Max is a typical dog who gets excited to see his owner every day.  He will take petting and loving any time you want to give it to him and he’ll always return the affection. Chloe, on the other hand, is a typical adult cat.  She’s lazy for the most part, except when someone shines a laser on the floor. She acts bored when her owner returns home and wants attention only on her terms.

Perhaps the best character of the movie is Snowball, a psychopathic rabbit who uses exuberance and moxie to rule the unwanted pets. He’s so crazy that no one wants to cross him, and Kevin Hart is perfect for his voice.

Overall, “The Secret Life of Pets” is not as good as “Finding Dory.”  It’s not as funny and relies more on the cuteness of the animals for entertainment.  It’s probably enjoyed most by younger viewers.  Still, “The Secret Life of Pets” is must-see family entertainment at the theater this summer.

Grade: B+

Rated PG for action and some rude humor.