‘Pets’ brings play­ful premise to the­aters

The Commercial Appeal - Go Memphis - - GO MOVIES SEE - By Sandy Co­hen Associated Press

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.”

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