The fact that I'm writing this now reveals that this was definitely a Redbox movie, not a big screen endeavor. The Secret Life of Pets is the kind of movie that (at least when you don't have kids, which I don't) you grab for the sheer reason of being entertained without having to be mentally engaged. Kid-aimed movies tend to excel at this, so after a long and brain-taxing week in the nuthouse (otherwise known as an office), The Secret Life of Pets made its way into my hands.
The Secret Life of Pets takes Toy Story, and replaces the toys with animals. The new dog messes up the perfect relationship that the long-residing pet has with his owner, and an adventure ensues with both of them trying to get back to their loving owner before she gets home from work. That pretty much sums it up. As such, it's not as original or quite as enjoyable as Toy Story, but it has its moments.
As anyone would expect, the story plays significantly on the sentimentality of the pet-owner relationship. The writers capitalize on normal pet behaviors, with the pets narrating their own thoughts for the audience in a way that all pet-owners can identify with. Furthermore, the animals all remain true to their real-life natures. The cat cares, but does so in a most indifferent way. The dogs are easily distracted and notoriously single-minded. The owners are oblivious as to what their pets are actually trying to communicate. In this way, the writing has a cleverness about it that is worth a chuckle here and there.
Outside of these real-life connections, The Secret Life of Pets is exceptionally simple, and a bit of a mishmash of purposeless characters that rely too heavily on their celebrity voices rather than witty dialogue. For example, Snowball the homicidal bunny, is voiced by Kevin Hart. Snowball has some genuinely humorous moments fueled by amusing dialogue, but the humor of the character mostly seems to rest on the fact that Kevin Hart is behind it, not necessarily what he's saying or doing. The same is true of Pops, a decrepit old Beagle voiced by Dana Carvey. The character seems to have been written for no other reason than to include Carvey, which doesn't actually bring that much to the story. But, I shouldn't be too harsh on movies of this kind using characters as plot devices, because the target audience is unlikely to be too picky about it.
The Secret Life of Pets is cute, and certainly has a few sweet moments that pet owners will find endearing. It stays fairly light (perhaps a little too much at times-- a sequence involving singing sausages comes to mind), making it a decent choice for a quiet Friday night after a draining week in the psych ward.