Does Kevin Hart get even funnier when you turn him into an angry little white bunny rabbit? Yes. Yes, he does.

The Secret Life of Pets tells the story of Max, a little terrier voiced by Louis C.K., who lives in a New York apartment with his owner Katie. He loves Katie so much that every day when she goes to work he sits patiently by the door waiting for her to come home, and then as soon as she returns he goes crazy because he’s so excited to see her. That is, until one day she comes home with a new dog–the big, shaggy, brown Duke, voiced by Eric Stonestreet.

Of course, all the pets in the building get together when their owners go to work for the 3-5starsday and leave them alone. All of them possess not only the ability to speak to each other, but are also blessed with the voices of famous comedians. Like, statistically speaking, most comedians in the world are in this movie. (OK, that’s a rough estimate.)

Max doesn’t like that he now has to compete for attention with Duke and realizes quickly he can frame his new roommate with pretty much anything. So while they’re visiting a dog park off leash one day, Max tells Duke to go find him a stick. Duke then tricks Max and both of them burst through a hole in the fence and escape into the world.

But the big, scary world is not as easy to navigate as their comfortable apartment, and they soon find themselves harassed by gangs of cats, chased by animal control officers, and they stumble into the path of Snowball, the tiny and adorable, but demented and violent, little bunny rabbit who controls all the other animals like the leader of an organized crime syndicate.

If you like Kevin Hart, you will find him even funnier in this role than he is in person. And if Kevin Hart doesn’t normally do it for you, he may do it here. Part of what makes Kevin Hart funny is his high level of intensity and aggression in such a small person. Shrink him down to a little white bunny, and that juxtaposition is even funnier, despite the lack of the adult language that is the staple of his stand-up.

When their friends back at the apartment building realize Max and Duke are missing, they take matters into their own hands and figure out how to search for them. The group of friends is led by Gidget, a puffy little poodle with a crush on Max, voiced by Jenny Slate.

The animation here is excellent, but when you’re competing with Pixar and Disney, it better be. The Secret Life of Pets hits the sweet spot that animated movies need to be successful–it’s colourful and action-packed enough for kids, but also funny enough for parents. These are cute, cuddly little animal characters, which appeals to the kids, but they’re voiced by normally foul-mouthed comedians doing all-ages comedy that’s still very funny.

But the movie is missing that other level that makes an animated movie great. Great animated movies often have a subtext, a layer of meaning that is only being communicated to the adults. A wink at the audience above the kids’ heads that says, we know what this is really about, don’t we? A movie like Zootopia, earlier this year (which also featured Jenny Slate), had multiple layers of meaning at that level, and it’s what elevates it from quality entertainment to a great movie.

The Secret Life of Pets is just quality entertainment. But that’s still pretty good.

 

Title The Secret Life of Pets
Director Chris Renaud, Yarrow Cheney
Writer Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio, Brian Lynch, Simon Rich
Runtime 87 min
Starring Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart, Jenny Slate
Production Universal Pictures, Illumination Entertainment, Dentsu, Fuji Television Network
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