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(Universal Studios)

(Universal Studios)

By Maggie Lu, Waubonsie Valley

The Secret Life of Pets, helmed by directors Chris Renaud (Despicable Me) and Yarrow Cheney, is doggedly wagging its way to $730M global.

This sprightly tale sprints off with Max, its amiable protagonist, a rescue terrier living a charmed New York City life with his owner Katie (Ellie Kemper), until she brings home Duke (Eric Stonestreet), a shaggy and gigantic dog Max finds threatening to his perfect dynamic with Katie. Conflicts ensue as Duke and Max soon find themselves lost in the city and stripped of their collars after a scuffle with some tough alley cats.

When handling controversial social issues, comedic quips are often the best device to use, and Illumination Entertainment perfectly fuses the two in The Secret Life of Pets. Indeed, Pets yields an easygoing menagerie ornamented with fresh personalities and overflowing with optimism. Albiet lacking in uniqueness, it claws back with a bevy of popping visuals and witty quips referencing social issues ranging from gentrification, refugees and social class privilege, all prettily packaged in a larky child-friendly confection.

Which is, all in all, doggone fun. For animated cartoons, this is generally the case, despite a healthy dose of wit or philosophical insight. And while this movie never taps into the heights of sob-wrenching emotion or the depths of visual inventiveness of other Pixar features, it occupies a quirky niche of its own, with playful absurdity and a winning, friendly spirit.

Sure, there’s some talk of death, deadly viper encounters, and little bits that aren’t all rainbows and sunshine. But it’s no secret, the “The Secret Life of Pets” is a hilarious explanation of the heartwarming bond between humans and their pets, and awash with a certain sweetness that lingers long after the concluding montage.

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