Credit: Illumination Entertainment

Whether you own a Siamese or a shih tzu, at some point you’ve sat at your desk at work and wondered what’s going on at home while you’re away. It’s a mystery that’s led to the invention of the pet cam, countless paintings of dogs playing poker, and now a new film from the animation house behind the Minions. Like Toy Story, The Secret Life of Pets anthropomorphizes the things we love, endowing them with colorful voices and oddball personalities. As soon as our backs are turned, the whole obedience shtick goes right out the window. Louis C.K. lends his slightly neurotic tonsils to our hero, Max—a floppy-eared mutt who happily belongs to Katie (Ellie Kemper). That is, until she brings home a big, dumb furball named Duke, who looks like Chewbacca and sounds like Modern Family’s Eric Stonestreet. Cue the jealous rivalry and the series of dirty tricks to determine who will be the resident alpha dog. From a New York apartment building straight out of Rear Window, our duo and a menagerie of their four-legged pals break free, hit the mean streets, and run afoul of a gang of mangy strays led by Kevin Hart’s hyped-up, scene-stealing bunny, Snowball. Pets has a great premise, but it’s more busy than clever. Sylvester and Tweety packed more anarchy and wit into a six-minute Looney Tunes short than Renaud and Cheney manage in an hour and a half. Like a dog that endlessly chases its tail in circles, Pets is amusing for a while, then it just tires itself out. B–

The Secret Life of Pets
  • Movie
  • 91 minutes