The Secret Life of Pets was made by the same collective of animators and writers responsible for the Despicable Me series and Minions. Their simplicity of approach ensures that this new film stays true to its basic concept: When the owners of New York City’s dogs and cats and birds and hamsters leave for the day, their animals come out to play -- and chaos ensues. You could say it’s Toy Story with pets, but that wouldn’t quite do justice to its vivid, hellraising cacophony.
This episodic adventure involves cockney alley cats, Animal Control and an anarchist collective called the Flushed Pets, who are led by a deranged rabbit and inhabit a subterranean realm guarded by vipers and giant crocodiles. Sound surreal? The whole film is a relentless cavalcade of weirdness: tattooed pigs, strung-out lizards, piranhas and one particularly hallucinatory musical number set in a sausage factory filled with hordes of dancing, soon-to-be-consumed wieners.
Don’t look for any through-lines, ‘cause there aren’t any. There’s some brief business about “finding your inner wolf,” which is abandoned within 30 seconds. The tone is all over the place. Wild slapstick leads to spurts of sentiment. There are even a couple of deaths stuffed in there, amid all that vivacious chasing and jumping and yelling and careening. But, again, the all-over-the-place-ness has a weird integrity. It’s almost like you’re watching everything unfold at the speed at which the filmmakers are imagining it, digesting the jokes as quickly as they can think them up.