*** out of four
The new computer-animated feature from Illumination Entertainment (Despicable Me), The Secret Life of Pets, is thematically similar to Pixar's Finding Dory, but I think Pets is more fun. Dory, the sequel to Finding Nemo, felt like a rehash, but Pets feels fresh with inventive characters and smart comedy.
So, what do our pets do home alone when we leave for work every day? They get into trouble, that's what. A Terrier named Max (voice of Louis C.K.) enjoys the simple life living in a nice apartment with his owner Katie (Ellie Kemper). That is until Katie brings home a huge brown mutt named Duke (Eric Stonestreet) and the two dogs dislike each other so much that one is constantly plotting to get rid of the other.
Eventually, Max and Duke end up being chased by dog catchers as well as a gang of unwanted pets led by a psychotic fluffy white bunny (Kevin Hart). Searching for Max is Gidget (Jenny Slate), a sweet little Pomeranian who has a massive crush on him.
Pets does suffer from over-plotting and too many characters, but it's fast and funny with clever gags. There is a hilarious Busby Berkeley-style musical number in a sausage factory, Hart's Snowball character chews a carrot into a skeleton key to bust his cohorts out of a cage, and Dana Carvey scores points as a cantankerous old hound dog.
The Secret Life of Pets is good animated fun.