THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS treads old ground

But one unfortunate evening, she brings home a giant dog who needs nothing but a little love in life, Duke (voiced by Eric Stonestreet).

The sequence is however not entirely unique within the film; its oddities, preference for violence and peculiar tone permeate through various, extended sequences in the rest of the film too, most of which exist as exercises of free-association writing, inherently digressive - a series of misadventures held together by the semblance of a narrative. He voices Max, the happy resident of an apartment building that flutters with social butterflies whenever humans are not around.

While C.K. and Stonestreet are amusing on their own, the characters don't seem to have any kind of chemistry, and sound a lot like they recorded their dialogue separately. So building upon this thought, The Secret Life Of Pets takes you on a fun-filled action-packed journey. Some of the film's best moments occur watching Max's behavior around her, like when he bolts upright with excitement when she walks past, collapses in disappointment when she doesn't stop to pet him, snaps to attention when she walks past again, etc. His jealousy leads to a bitter rivalry, which sees them caught by Animal Control to be shipped to the dog pound. Life is dog-gone ideal until Katie comes home one day with an unwelcome surprise, a "brother" dog named Duke. And a perky Pomeranian named Gidget (Jenny Slate) unleashes martial-arts fury on a bunch of creatures to protect her beloved Max, but it's played for laughs. However, when the sewer animals find out they aren't who they claim to be, Max and Duke have to run for their lives and end up far from home.

So yes, it's often very amusing and frequently entertaining. The talking animals will stimulate the imaginations of youngsters who like to pretend their pets can talk or who like to endow their dogs and cats with human traits. When Max and Duke find themselves loose in New York City, things start to look dim and unsafe for the two lost souls. Max is miffed. Duke tries to make friends, but Max will have none of it.

Other favorites will be Lake Bell as Chloe, a plus-sized tabby cat and friend of Max, or as much a friend as a cat can be to a dog; Dana Carvey as Pops, an old basset hound who knows everybody and can help in the search for the missing dogs; and Albert Brooks as Tiberius, a red-tailed hawk who begrudgingly provides flights when needed.

It gets nutty and silly pretty quickly. Leave it to the women, even in the pet world, to find a solution.

A lot of movies abandon smart ideas.

The Secret Life of Pets sniffs a few of these possibilities out and offers some sweet observations about our pets and our projections onto them. Snowball and his team soon turn onto the pair of dogs and a chase ensues.

The Secret Life Of Pets also makes you guffaw.

At a certain point, The Secret Life of Pets drops the "secret" part that was so essential to its appeal.

Reach Goodykoontz at bill.goodykoontz@arizonarepublic.com. Directed by Chris Renaud, from a screenplay by Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio and Brian Lynch. Louis CK as Max and Eric Stonestreet as Duke are ideal, but Kevin Hart as Snowball and Jenny Slate as Gidget the pomeranian are stand out performers.

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