The good news: There are some very solid laughs in the animated “The Secret Life of Pets.”
The not-so-good news: The funniest moments are in the trailer.
This film from co-directors Chris Renaud and Yarrow Cheney (“Despicable Me”) starts out with a terrific depiction of New Yorkers going to work and saying goodbye to their pets. It appears our animal buddies have figured out how to move freely from apartment to apartment (open windows, fire escapes and ventilation ducts come in handy) so as to while away the human-less hours.
The ads promise an animal version of “Toy Story,” the idea being that when humans aren’t watching our toys and our pets cavort with impunity. And the animators have done a terrific job of nailing the characteristics of various canine and feline breeds.
But the film soon slips into what I call “runaround” plotting (run over here. Now run over there. Now run over THERE).
Our hero is a dog named Max (Louis C.K.) who is absolutely dedicated to his owner Katie (Elle Kemper). At least until Katie brings home a new dog from the pound, the massive and massively ravenous Duke (Eric Stonestreet). A doggy version of sibling rivalry erupts.
But before long Max and Duke find themselves on the street and navigating the danger of the big city (Just like Woody and Buzz Lightyear, right?), including a manic white bunnywabbit named Snowball (Kevin Hart) who is leading a sewer-dwelling army of lost pets on a crusade against their human oppressors.
The voice cast is deep (Albert Brooks, Jenny Slate, Lake Bell, Steve Coogan, Hannibal Burress, Dana Carvey, Bobby Moynihan) and the animation is great.
But the middle portion of “The Secret Life of Pets” never feels like it’s going anywhere.