As the owner of two cats I consider my children, The Secret Life of Pets–clearly taking a cue from Toy Story–tug at my heartstrings. The story concerns how pets spend their day after their days after their owners leave for work. Did anyone really think they curl up and go to sleep? We are introduced to Max (voiced by Louis C.K.) a happy Jack Russell Terrier who lives a perfect, spoiled life with his owner Katie (Ellie Kemper). All he thinks about is when he’ll get to see Katie again, but does his best to occupy himself, hanging out with his animal friends in the building. Man’s world is turned upside down when Katie comes home with a new dog, bossy, oversized Duke (Eric Stonestreet). The new roommates clash from the start. It’s not long before their ‘turf war’ spills into the street.
The two end up lost in New York City, getting themselves entangled with a revolutionary group of anti-owner displaced animals led by a vindictive bunny (Kevin Hart). Meanwhile, their friends, led by Gidget (Jenny Slate) a Pomeranian with a crush on Max attempt to find them. The plot is simple and straightforward, but the ensuing hijinks are fun and amusing. While jokes are straight forward and sometimes obvious, they’re well written and expertly delivered. Unlike so many other films aimed primarily at younger viewers, The Secret Life of Pets manages a sweetness without ever talking down to the audience. Directors Yarrow Cheney and Chris Renaud, working from a script by Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio and Brian Lynch, bring a light touch to sad scenes which helps them maintain the film’s agreeable tone.
Brought to us by Illumination Entertainment, the folks behind Despicable Me, Despicable Me 2, and their regrettable spinoff, Minions, The Secret Life of Pets doesn’t offer up the animation ‘wow factor’ of this year’s Finding Dory from Pixar. The humans look like caricatures and the creatures have a cartoonish, stuffed animal appearance, though the visuals are occasionally surprisingly imaginative. This follows the look established by the company’s other films and the apparent simplicity, I think, reflects the sweet moral at the core of the story. This is a story about loyal, optimistic dogs and their love for humankind. Even if it means being lock up in an apartment all day alone, dogs are indeed, “man’s best friend” and long for the companionship a loving owner provides.
Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, The Secret Life of Pets 4K transfer is reference quality material for an animated feature. Everything is crisp, clear and appears to pop off the screen. The clarity and detail of animal fur us striking, allowing you to see each individual strand and texture. The depth of field is amazing, offering up sweeping aerial shots of New York City. Both black levels and colors are perfectly dialed in throughout the presentation.
Both the 4K UHD disc and the regular 1080p Blu-ray come armed with a Dolby Atmos surround track. Extremely dynamic, the surrounds are put through a pleasing workout throughout the presentation. The LFE is put to good use during the films several action scenes. Directionality is superb ND the dialogue is clear and concise throughout.
English SDH, Spanish and French subtitles are included.
The following extras are available on the included Blu-ray:
- How to Make an Animated Film (HD, 4:13) People from the various departments of Illumination discuss the process of making an animated film, from budgeting to storytelling.
- Anatomy of a Scene (HD, 4:46) The filmmakers and animators take us through the multi-step process and countless decisions it takes to complete just one scene in The Secret Life of Pets.
- Three Mini-Movies (HD)
- Norman TV (HD, 4:01) This one is about the guinea pig, Norman and all the things he sees in his travels via the air vents with his TV remote. Stepping out of his role as an observer, he becomes an actor to help a couple.
- Weenie (HD, 4:05) This one concerns Timmy the sausage, anointed ‘Weenie,’ by others.
- Mower Minions (HD, 4:27) The guys put on a show for some older people mowing their lawn.
- The Making of the Mini-Movies (HD, 7:23) The French team at Illumination discuss the process involved in making the mini-movies discussed above.
- All About the Pets (HD, 6:26) , Kevin Hart and Eric Stonestreet take us on an educational journey to learn more about your average and not-so average, household pets such as a cat, a sphinx, a little chicken, a hedgehog, a chinchilla, a rose hair tarantula, a puppy, a red lizard, a white rabbit and an albino python.
- Animals Can Talk: Meet The Actors (HD, 3:47) The actors who give voice to the film’s menagerie of characters talk about their roles and the process of bringing them to life. We get to see them behind-the-scenes recording their dialogue for the film as well.
- Hairstylist To The Dogs (HD, 3:41) Inspired by “Hairspray Live!,” Eric Stonestreet takes us through the basic steps to help your dogs look as awesome as possible.
- The Best of Snowball (HD, 1:15) A quick, rapid-fire, fun musical mash-up of all the best Snowball one-liners from the film.
- Hot Dog Sing-Along (HD, 1:12) Join Max and Duke as they perform for their dinner in the sausage factory. This quick song is accompanied by the song lyrics.
- Sing Trailer (HD, 4:02)
- “Lovely Day” Lyric Video (HD, 2:23) The animated music video to “Lovely Day” complete with lyrics that are accompanied with the animated stars of the film.
- The Humans that Brought You Pets (HD, 8:43) – Producers Chris Meledandri and Janet Healy, directors Chris Renaud and Yarrow Cheney, and writer Brian Lynch discuss what went into creating The Secret Life of Pets ‘compelling characters and non-stop action and the the inspiration behind it all. Each of the individuals mentioned have their own chapters within this extra and there’s a Play All option to watch them all continuously.
- GoPro: The Secret Life of Pets (HD, 2:04) People doing dangerous stunts with GoPro cameras and the pets of the film recreating them.
- Fandango: Brian The Minion on Pets (HD) More Minions. Yay…
- Blu-ray of the film.
- Digital HD