Magazine article Screen International

'The Secret Life of Pets': Annecy Review

Magazine article Screen International

'The Secret Life of Pets': Annecy Review

Article excerpt

Dirs: Chris Renaud, Yarrow Cheney. US. 2016. 91 mins

Although Disney already marked their animal animation territory with Zootropolis earlier this year, it turns out that there is plenty of room for another picture featuring our furry friends. The latest film from Chris Renaud (Despicable Me) and his team is a madcap caper full of densely-packed sight gags, dizzying action set pieces and a healthy side-helping of Renaud trademark silliness. While it lacks the equivalent of the small, yellow USP of the Despicable Me series, this should still generate healthy returns from family audiences for Universal. The likeable central characters could potentially sustain at least one of the almost inevitable sequels which will follow.

The film lifts the lid on the exploits of the pets of New York while their owners are away at work. As such, there is very little thematic overlap between this world and the human-free society of Zootropolis. Pets has more in common with Bolt, and in particular, Toy Story: the co-dependent relationship between pet and owner mirrors the latter's dynamic between toy and child.

The top dog in this tale is Max (voiced by Louis C.K.), a scrappy little terrier who spends his days bursting with love for his owner Katie (Ellie Kemper) when she is there and pining for her when she is not. But one day Katie brings home a rival - a big, shaggy rescue mutt called Duke (Eric Stonestreet). Max is not about to give up his basket, his ball and crucially, his share of Katie to this slobbering usurper; the battle lines are drawn in hotly contested kibble.

A Greek chorus composed of other neighbourhood pets is introduced during a playful montage. Chloe (Lake Bell), the obese cat upstairs, battles with the temptation of an entire roast chicken in the fridge; a dachshund customises a Magimix to give back massages; a slow-witted pug wages a one-dog war against squirrels. …

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