Hart in the right place

Fun­ny­man loves an­i­ma­tion ex­pe­ri­ence and wants more

Life & Style Weekend - - SCREEN LIFE - With Seanna Cronin

KEVIN Hart is of­ten the butt of the joke in his films. Whether it's a quip about the co­me­dian's height or his high-pitched voice, he's a very phys­i­cal ac­tor who's not afraid to poke fun at him­self.

But in his lat­est movie role, the Amer­i­can fun­ny­man lets rip from the safety of a record­ing stu­dio.

Hart plays a white rab­bit named Snow­ball in The Se­cret Life of Pets, the new fam­ily film from the creators of De­spi­ca­ble Me.

“It (the role) came out of nowhere but I'm glad that it did,” Hart tells Week­end.

“It's a great char­ac­ter, Snow­ball is a very, very funny char­ac­ter.”

The film fol­lows a ter­rier named Max (Louis CK) whose quiet life with his owner is up­ended when she takes in Duke (Eric Ston­estreet), a stray whom Max instantly dis­likes.

Hart im­me­di­ately re­lated to the film's cen­tral con­cept of tak­ing a look at what pets do when their own­ers aren't home.

“I'm a dog guy. I've got a dober­man pin­scher and the lit­tle ver­sion (minia­ture pin­scher),” he says.

“I won­der all the time what are my dogs do­ing when I leave. “It wouldn't shock me (if they get up to trou­ble). My lit­tle one is bad. I don't know what that lit­tle one is up to.”

When a se­ries of events leads Max and Duke out on to the city streets, they are mis­taken for strays and locked in a van bound for the pound.

Luck­ily, the re­bel­lious bunny Snow­ball swoops in to save the doggy duo from cap­tiv­ity.

In ex­change, Snow­ball de­mands that Max and Duke join his gang of aban­doned pets on a mis­sion against the hu­mans who have done them wrong.

“He's a guy who, in his mind, is start­ing a revo­lu­tion and he's do­ing it by grab­bing an abun­dance of pets who have been through what he's been through and they should have no prob­lem fol­low­ing him,” Hart says.

“What makes Snow­ball so amaz­ing is he's com­plex; he's in­se­cure within his se­cu­rity. The vi­sion is al­ways there but the ac­tions don't al­ways come out the way he thinks they should.”

Lay­ing down his voice tracks in the record­ing stu­dio was a learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for Hart, who is most com­fort­able do­ing stand-up com­edy.

But the film's di­rec­tors, Yar­row Cheney and Chris Re­naud, known for the De­spi­ca­ble Me fran­chise, were on hand to guide him through the lengthy process.

“Their track record is amaz­ing, so com­ing in and jump­ing on their suc­cess train is al­ways a good thing,” Hart says.

“It's a long process do­ing an an­i­mated film. Af­ter my eighth ses­sion I started to see Snow­ball come to life and I was blown away.

“I think it's any ac­tor's dream to get lucky and get one of the fran­chises that de­velop into parts one, two and three. Ev­ery­body wants to be the don­key in Shrek; that was an astro­nom­i­cal suc­cess story. If this bunny can get me in any way, shape or form (suc­cess like that) then I'll be happy.”

Most im­por­tantly for Hart, though, was get­ting the thumbs up from his two chil­dren, Heaven and Hen­drix.

“When I first took on the role I had a pic­ture with Snow­ball look­ing happy and an­gry. They thought it was so funny to see him go from the cute and cud­dly to the crazy bunny,” he says.

“When my kids laughed I knew I was do­ing the right thing. They're my big­gest crit­ics, It's al­most adult-like the way kids talk about th­ese an­i­mated films.”

Hart en­joyed the ex­pe­ri­ence so much he's signed on to an­other an­i­mated film, Dreamworks' Cap­tain Un­der­pants, due for re­lease next year.

The Se­cret Life of Pets opens on Thurs­day.

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