The most ingenious conceit of "The Secret Life of Pets" is right in its title. A warm, goofy computer-animated comedy delving into what happens when domesticated animals are left to their own devices while their owners are out of the house is ripe with possibilities. With the exception of the film's bookend segments, however, director Chris Renaud (2012's "The Lorax"), co-director Yarrow Cheney, and screenwriters Ken Daurio (2013's "Despicable Me 2"), Brian Lynch (2015's "Minions") and Cinco Paul (2011's "Hop") have opted for a standard part-caper/part-chase plot without the imaginative verve and quality of heart and humor that so often distinguishes Pixar and Disney features from their lesser competition. Arriving soon after two of 2016's best, "Zootopia" and "Finding Dory," Universal/Illumination's "The Secret Life of Pets" falters in comparison, too slight by a half and not nearly as compelling as one hopes.
Manhattan terrier Max (voiced by Louis C.K.) lives in contented bliss with loving human owner Katie (Ellie Kemper) until the day she surprises him by bringing home a second dog, the shaggy, ungainly Duke (Eric Stonestreet). Unwilling to share his domain with someone else, Max embarks on a scheme to frame Duke and get him booted as quickly as he arrives. When their growing contentions leave them lost in the city, hunted by both Animal Control Services and an underground community of feral animals led by vengeance-seeking rabbit Snowball (Kevin Hart), Max's friends—among them, adoring American Eskimo Gidget (Jenny Slate), nonchalant feline Chloe (Lake Bell), and wiener-dog Buddy (Hannibal Buress)—set out on a perilous journey to find them.
See Dustin Putman, TheFilmFile.com. for full review