Movie Must Watch: The Secret Life Of Pets

When the humans are away, the pets will… Try to escape from an evil bunny?

Photos: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

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What shenanigans do pets get up to when nobody’s around?

It’s a regular morning in New York. After filling up her cat’s food bowl, a lady steps out the door for work. As soon as the owner leaves, the feline – with a deadpan expression – dumps her food in the trash and opens the fridge to find something better to eat.

Well, you may think you know your pet, but you could be wrong.

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Animals amok

For this bustling Manhattan apartment building, the real day starts after the humans leave for work.

That’s when the pets of every fur and feather begin their own nine-to-five routine: trading funny stories about their owners, auditioning adorable looks for tastier snacks and watching ‘reality TV’ on Animal Planet.

The building’s top dog, loyal Terrier Max (voiced by comedian Louis CK), finds his pampered world turned upside down when his owner brings home a massive mess of a mongrel, Duke (Eric Stonestreet).

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Duke immediately takes liberties with Max’s toys and bed, much to the chagrin of the unseated favourite. Their canine conflict escalates out into the streets, eventually landing them locked up by animal control.

But when the duo encounter the adorable yet deranged bunny Snowball (Kevin Hart), they must tap into their primal instincts to escape, survive and make it home before their owner returns.

Producer Janet Healy explained, “We project so much character onto our pets—the things we want them to be. Even when those qualities aren’t there, we continue to feel that they have this secret, full life that we’re not a part of.”

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Comedy kings come in

The movie is geared towards making people “laugh as much as they possibly can, but [also] cry a bit at the end as well”, said Cinco Paul, one of the writers.

To make this possible, The Secret Life of Pets brought in several kings of comedy whose names you may recognise. CK, a stand-up comedian who stars in Trumbo and TV’s “Louie”, brings Max to life with his “unique and dry and distinctive personality”, shared Chris Meledandri, CEO of producing studio Illumination Entertainment.

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Also starring is Hart from the Ride Along series and Central Intelligence; he reportedly loves Snowball so much that he could take a two-line joke in the script and “turn it into an eight-line joke that is so much funnier”, said writer Brian Lynch.

Other comedians coming in for this title include Jenny Slate (Zootopia, “Parks and Recreation”) as Gidget the Pomeranian, Dana Carvey (Wayne’s World series, “First Impressions”) as Pops the Basset Hound and Albert Brooks (Finding Dory, “Weeds”) as Tiberius the Red-Tailed Hawk.

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These could be your pets too

One especially entertaining aspect of the movie is how similar its characters behave to actual pets. In fact, the animals in the comedy were mostly modelled after the production team’s own pets and their expressions, attitudes and quirky moments.

Meledandri shared, “We have two mischievous dogs, and we frequently sneak up on them when they think we’re out of the house… [And] catch them red-handed living their secret life.”

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Some amusing behaviours you may observe in the movie, inspired by the team’s pets, include dogs jumping on top of the kitchen table and licking crumbs off it, taking a nap on the bed in the master bedroom and possibly even a covert collaboration between them and the pet bird.

Co-director Yarrow Cheney said, “Our goal was to have the audience look at the actions of these animals and think that is something their own pet would do.”

THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS [PG]

DIRECTOR: Chris Renaud

STARRING: Louis CK, Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart, Jenny Slate, Ellie Kemper, Dana Carvey & Albert Brooks

GENRE: Comedy, Animation

RUN LENGTH: 91 min

RELEASE: 1 Sep 2016

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