For an animated film to be successful there are three key elements – story, animation and voice work. They all have to be clicking or the end result will be disappointing. Animation is going through a high point in its history. Partially because of the technological advances and what they are able to do in the medium but also because more time and attention are being paid to making them. One of the studios taking up the charge is Illumination Entertainment, who is the one behind the Despicable Me and Minion films. Now they are turning towards animals or more specifically pets for their latest film.
Just like when you bring a new baby into a family, a new pet in a household turns the whole order of things on its head. Max (voiced by Louis C.K.) has always been the favourite pet of Katie’s (voiced by Ellie Kemper). Things change completely for terrier Max when stray mutt Duke (voiced by Eric Stonestreet) is thrown into the mix. Max is threatened by the new furball and it is war.
Things go from bad to worse when one day while out with their walker, Max and Duke become separated from the human and find themselves on their own on the chaotic streets of Manhattan. The two have several run-ins and meetings with other animals like street rabbit Snowball (voiced by Kevin Hart), who brings them to an underground lair filled with discarded animals. Snowball is gathering these troops of cats, dogs, alligators and snakes to wage a war against humans.
This film is destined to make plenty of money at the box office this summer. It has everything going for it. Weak competition and it is funny and furry. The best thing about the film is the voices supplied by the comedic actors involves. Besides Kemper, Hart and Louis C.K. there are strong moments by Jenny Slate, Lake Bell, Hannibal Burress, Dana Carvey and Albert Brooks. Each brings out a particular element, emotion or shtick that serves the character well. All of them have great comedic sensibilities and timing so the fact that they do well in film like this comes as no surprise.
Its strongest section is the beginning when it introduces all the characters to us and shows us what our pets do all day long while we are gone to work or school. A lot of household items or appliances are used in unique ways. There is plenty of clever humour or ways of looking at the way humans treat animals. Kids and parents alike will find themselves laughing a lot at the silly sight gags and one liners. The weakest moments are when the directors focus on chase scenes after zany, frenetic chase scene. Occasionally it becomes too busy and overwhelming.