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‘The Secret Life Of Pets’ Is Much Better Than The Commercials Led You To Believe

Where to Stream

The Secret Life of Pets

While watching The Secret Life of Pets, I learned something important about myself: It’s not the kids’ movies I hate, it’s the commercials for kids’ movies that get my blood boiling.

Every time my own child drags me to the cinema, I take my Kindle because I expect to be bored, exasperated, or both bored and exasperated. And I always end up leaving my reading materials in my handbag because the movie is way better than I expected it to be.

Anyhow, I distinctly remember rolling my eyes at the ads for this flick (streaming now on Netflix—the movie, not the commercial). The poodle likes heavy metal! How unexpected and hilarious! But, as it turns out, there is more to this movie than flat gags. It’s an adventure story, a love story, and a laugh-out-loud comedy.

The story gets started when Max’s human brings home a new dog, Duke. The needy terrier is not at all pleased to have a huge, shaggy competitor for Katie’s attention. Duke, aware of Max’s antipathy, tries to ditch the Jack Russell while the dogwalker is distracted. When this plan goes awry, both dogs end up in the custody of animal control. They manage to escape thanks to the machinations of a white rabbit named Snowball, and thus begins their journey into the perilous underworld of abandoned pets.

Since becoming a parent, I’ve learned that voice actors make a huge difference in how I react to film and television created with kids in mind, and The Secret Life of Pets has some great names attached to it. Louis CK plays Max, and the downbeat comedian brings real charm to the role. Eric Stonestreet—Cam on Modern Family—does a terrific job as Duke. Kevin Hart makes Snowball both menacing and hilarious. Hannibal Buress is a thoroughly convincing Dachshund. Albert Brooks is a falcon named Tiberius, and grownups of a certain age will appreciate hearing him in part because he is himself, and in part because he has voiced some indelible roles on The Simpsons. But it’s Jenny Slate who steals the show.

Gidget the Pomerian is the real hero of this movie. We were well into it before my daughter asked, “Who is that? I recognize that voice.” I was delighted to be able to say, “That’s Marcel the Shell!” Gidget is certainly more excitable than Marcel, but both characters share an irresistible tenderness. It’s Gidget who rallies her fellow pets to rescue Max, and her unexpected martial-arts skills that prove decisive in the final battle. It’s fun to watch a heroine save the hero.

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While I certainly had fun watching this with my kid—I’m always happy to find something we can enjoy together—this should be an entertaining diversion for grownups sans youngsters, too. Parents, other caregivers, and sensitive souls might want to take note of the PG rating. There’s totally a happy ending, but there’s legit danger before we get there.

Jessica Jernigan is a writer, editor, and mom-about-town in a mid-sized Midwestern city. You can find her professional website here, but Instagram is where the cat photos are.

Watch The Secret Life of Pets on Netflix

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