We’ve all heard that old chestnut: When the cat’s away, the mice will play. But have you ever wondered what happens when you’re away? What mischief does your family’s furry friend get into when you lock the front door and set off for school or work?
Well, for the thankful tail-wagger Max and his fellow apartment-bound pet pals, it turns out that what happens next is more action-filled than you might expect.
Not every day, of course. Some days are pretty mundane. Max can spend eight straight hours staring at the door, for instance, waiting for his beloved and totally terrific owner, Katie, to return. In another nearby apartment, his feline friend Chloe might simply be trying to refrain from helping herself to whatever’s in the fridge—when she’s not lying lazily on an overstuffed pillow, that is. Then there’s the bulldog Mel, who spends his afternoons barking at squirrels that foolishly wander into the tree outside his apartment window.
But sometimes things get a little more intense.
When Max and Duke go missing, a Pomeranian pup named Gidget rallies Max’s friends to set off in search for them. And though Chloe the cat tells Max at one point, “As your friend I’ve got to be honest with you: I don’t care about you or your problems,” even she comes along to help. The animals encounter many dangerous situations, but they push on to aid their friend.
Tiberius, a hungry hawk, suppresses his natural predatory instincts in the hope of finding friendship. It’s a strange, but appealing, new concept for him. And even though the Flushed Pets gang harbours deep antipathy toward humans—even talking about killing pets’ owners at one point, which obviously isn’t good—the movie shows how love can disarm such vengeful intentions. When the leader of the group, a hard-bitten former magician’s rabbit who goes by Snowball, is eventually offered a home by a little girl and her mom, he immediately hops at the chance: Snowball climbs up into the loving child’s arms, a changed bunny.
By the time the credits roll, The Secret Life of Pets also delivers a gentle reminder to humans to be wise about the choices we make when it comes to the pets we adopt.
This rollicking pet adventure is filled with thumps and tumbles. Max gets pushed around and sat on by the much bigger Duke. Alley cats toss Max into the air, causing him to crash into heaps of garbage. He and his friends are pummelled and bounced around by the Flushed Pets in other chase scenes as well. When captured by that gang, Max and Duke lie and talk of killing their previous owner with a blender.
Slapstick animal violence occasionally spills chaotically into the human world, too. Members of the Flushed Pets fight with humans and twice hijack an Animal Control van, once crashing it in an alley and another time driving it off a bridge into the watery bay below. Humans involved in these encounters end up bruised and bandaged. Snowball also steals a commuter bus and uses it to bash a pathway through heavy traffic.
If you’ve ever ventured onto YouTube and noticed what’s trending at any given moment, you know that we humans have a tender spot for our pets. Videos of tumbling, bumbling furballs are everywhere.
When you take that built-in sensitivity to pettable pets and infuse it into a rollicking story packed with quirky conversing critters, well, it’s a combination that can’t help but make you smile. Adults and kids alike will have their hearts tickled and tugged at here, like a pooch with a favourite chew toy.
By Focus on the Family Singapore. This review was adapted from Plugged In: the entertainment guide your family needs to make family appropriate decisions through movie reviews, book reviews, TV reviews, and more.