WHAT’S UP, DOG?
‘Pets’ brings playful premise to theaters
Any pet owner who has imbued their furry or feathered friends with deep thoughts and mysterious intentions will relate to the imagination behind “The Secret Life of Pets.”
It may not have the emotional resonance of a Pixar movie, but with its playful premise, endearing performances and outstanding score by Alexandre Desplat, “Pets” is fun, family (and animal)-friendly fare.
People’s favorite non-speaking companions are brought to life here by Illumination Entertainment (the studio behind “Despicable Me”) and given voice by an all-star cast that includes Louis C.K., Kevin Hart, Jenny Slate and Albert Brooks.
Plot-wise, “Pets” follows the path Pixar set with talking toys 20 years ago in “Toy Story”: Two would-be rivals fighting for the love of their owner are forced to unite for a common cause.
Little terrier Max (C.K.) is the top dog in the life of his owner, Katie (Ellie Kemper), and a leader among the other house pets in their New York City apartment building, including
neighbor Pomeranian Gidget (Slate), and the fat cat next door, Chloe (Lake Bell). But his exalted position is threatened when Katie brings home a giant, fluffy mutt named Duke (Eric Stonestreet). Like Woody and Buzz, Max and Duke are instantly at odds.
The rival pups are trying to sabotage each other when they become separated from their dog walker and captured by animal control. This sends them on an adventure into the animal underworld: literally the underground headquarters of a bitter bunny named Snowball (Hart) and his team of Flushed Pets. Abandoned by their former owners, their motto is “liberated forever, domesticated never.”
Maxandduketrytofitin,butsnowball soon observes, “You’ve got the scent of domestication all over you,” and sends his army of rogue animals after them. At one point, the little rabbit steals a bus.
Meanwhile,theotherpetsfrommax and Duke’s apartment building notice the two are missing and set out to find them. Gidget, who has a not-so-secret crush on Max, leads a menagerie that includes Chloe the cat, Mel the pug, Buddy the dachshund and a guinea pig named Norman.
They enlist the help of Tiberius the hawk (Brooks) and Pops (Dana Carvey), the wheelchair-bound basset hound who knows every animal in New York.
Desplat’s jazzy, energetic score amplifies the urgency and excitement as the chase continues through the city, and clever animation highlights the quirkiness of animal behavior. Although the characters in “Pets” are entirely anthropomorphized — they speak English and can operate electronics — they retain some recognizable animalism. When Pops wants to shut down one of his famous parties, for example, he turns on the vacuum cleaner. Dogs in hot pursuit of their friends are suddenly distracted by butterflies. And Buddy’s movements are especially amusing, as he navigates his elongated dachshund body around corners and down stairs.
It’s fun to imagine what pets get into when no one is home, and “Pets” does a great job of taking that idea to an extreme. The Duel (R, 110 min.) Liam Hemsworth and Woody Harrelson in a Western. Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8. Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (R, 98 min.) A comedy in which the girls (Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza) are as raunchy as the guys (Zac Efron, Adame Devine). Cineplanet 16, Collierville Towne 16, Cordova Cinema, Desoto Cinema 16, Forest Hill 8, Hollywood 20 Cinema, Majestic, Olive Branch Cinema, Palace Cinema, Paradiso, Stage Cinema, Studio on the Square, Summer Quartet Drive-in. The Secret Life of Pets (PG, 90 min.) An animated cats-and-dogs-and-more comedy from Illumination Entertainment (the “Minions” studio). Cineplanet 16 (in 3-D), Collierville Towne 16 (in 3-D), Cordova Cinema (in 3-D), Desoto Cinema 16 (in 3-D), Forest Hill 8, Hollywood 20 Cinema (in 3-D), Majestic, Olive Branch Cinema (in 3-D), Palace Cinema (in 3-D, Paradiso (in 3-D), Stage Cinema (in 3-D), Studio on the Square, Summer Quartet Drive-in. Sultan (Not rated, 170 min.) A Hindi action-romance about a mixed martial artist. Collierville Towne 16, Hollywood 20 Cinema. The Infiltrator (R, 127 min.) Undercover detective Bryan Cranston infiltrates the Escobar drug empire. Cineplanet 16, Collierville Towne 16, Cordova Cinema, Hollywood 20 Cinema, Ridgeway Cinema Grill. Art & Architecture in Cinema: The Papal Basilicas of Rome ( Not rated, 100 min.) A cinematic tour of the four highestranking Roman Catholic cathedrals. 7 p.m. Thursday, Paradiso. Tickets: $16. Visit malco.com. Horton Hears a Who! (G, 86 min.) The Malco “Kids Summer Film Fest” continues with this computer-animated adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ story of an idealistic elephant (voiced by Jim Carrey). A portion of the proceeds goes to benefit children’s hospitals in Memphis, New Orleans, Mississippi, Arkansas and Kentucky. 10 a.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, Collierville Towne 16, Cordova Cinema, Desoto
Louis C.K. voices Max, a terrier, and the leader among the pets in his New York apartment building in “The Secret Life of Pets.”