Featuring the voices of Louis C.K. and Albert Brooks. Rated G.
The Secret Life of Pets sets us up for a sibling rivalry story that looks delicious and sounds even hipper, what with Louis C.K. perfectly cast as the voice of Max, a terrier whose human (Ellie Kemper) has the gall to adopt another rescue dog to keep him company in her candy-coloured New York apartment building filled with other lively pets.
But that dog—a humungous Rowlf-like thing—is voiced by Modern Family’s Eric Stonestreet, who brings nothing to the role. He just… sits there. He’s certainly no comic foil for C.K., whose stamp is all over the movie’s best bits of dialogue.
But while a film about a Louis C.K.–type dog plotting against his boring roommate could still be a hoot, The Secret Life of Pets quickly ditches its frenemy premise and sets these two loose in the big city, where they bond solely by surviving a series of madcap adventures. Some are more fun than others thanks to the voice casting—Kevin Hart was born to play an evil bunny, and Albert Brooks makes for a nicely malevolent hawk—but none contribute to any sense of an overarching story. It’s like Toy Story without the lament for childhood things: pretty disposable stuff. (Okay, that wacked-out sausage factory sequence is memorable.)
If you’re wondering who had the smarts to cast Louis C.K. and Albert Brooks but not use them very well, The Secret Life of Pets is from the Despicable Me/Minions team. They know what kids like, so any you take along will go home happy.