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The Secret Life Of Pets Proves That Fluffy Has A Dark Side

Any one of us would freak out if our roommate/significant other showed up after work one day with a second roommate/significant other who was ready to move in that same night without any advance notice. And yet we do it to our pets all the time—bringing an additional, strange-smelling animal into their territory like it’s a fun surprise. That’s the premise behind The Secret Life Of Pets, a new animated film from co-directors Chris Renaud and Yarrow Cheney, the team behind the Despicable Me movies.

Max (voiced by Louis C.K.) is a dog of indeterminate breed who has an ideal relationship with his owner, Katie—think rides around Manhattan in the basket of her bike and a prime spot at the foot of the bed every night. For Max, life is perfect. For Katie, something’s missing. That something turns out to be a 200lb dog called Duke (Modern Family’s Eric Stonestreet), who lacks the subtle canine refinements Max has cultivated.

MAX AND DUKE

The rivalry between the two dogs sparks a chain of events that leads to them both being set loose on the streets of New York with a team of dog catchers and an army of anti-owner “flushed pets” on their tails. If they want to make it back to Katie in one piece, they’ll have to work together.

Though that synopsis may sound pretty cutesy, The Secret Life of Pets isn’t all belly rubs and Milkbones. Like Despicable Me, the movie has an underlying darkness to it, that goes beyond the idea that New Yorkers are a cold-hearted bunch who’ll flush anything from baby bunnies to full-grown German Shepherds down the drain. Also: alligators. So many alligators.

In one scene, we find out that a pet’s beloved owner has died and a new family has moved into his old house. In another, a singing, dancing, anthropomorphic sausage has its head and torso bitten off by a hungry dog, mid-musical number. It keeps dancing. (Unless there’s no one sitting in front of you, it’s best to put your pop down for the sausage scene.) Young kids might not pick up on any of this, but have fun explaining it if they do. It’s not like the way kids learned about death in the olden days (Old Yeller) was any better.

Caveats aside, the movie is funny. The excellent comedic lineup helps—Kevin Hart’s badass bunny rabbit looks like Thumper but has the attitude of Bugs Bunny raised in the Bronx. Jenny Slate, Lake Bell, Hannibal Buress, and Albert Brooks round out the cast of four-legged and feathered characters so even if you decide it’s not for the kids, the movie probably is for you.

The Secret Life of Pets hops into theatres July 8. Watch the trailer below.

INNERSPACE CLIPS