'Secret Life of Pets' a delight for all ages

Taking the idea of pets having their own lives when the owners are away and expanding it, “The Secret Life” is fun for the whole family – a fully realized universe that left me with a big smile on my face throughout.

“The Secret Life of Pets” is a lot like a newborn puppy sitting in the window of a pet store – it’s cute and cuddly and deserves a chance to be a part of your world.

Taking the idea of pets having their own lives when the owners are away and expanding it, “The Secret Life” is fun for the whole family – a fully realized universe that left me with a big smile on my face throughout.

The premise is pretty simple – a terrier named Max (voiced by Louis C.K.) has his life turned upside down when his owner brings home a new dog named Duke (voiced by Eric Stonestreet).

Max hatches a plan to get rid of Duke, but things go awry leaving Max and Duke far from home and the pair are forced to work together to get back to their owner.

Much like “Zootopia” this is a film where the animal world is greatly detailed, playing off a lot of perceptions of animal traits that help to make for some great visual gags. Directors Yarrow Cheney and Chris Renaud have taken great care to create this world in all its wonder and glory. This is also a film that makes the best use of 3-D of any release in recent memory.

The cast helps to bring it all to life. Louis C.K.’s sarcastic tones are a perfect choice for Max, while Stonestreet is the right choice as a lovable mutt.

The voice cast also includes everyone from Ellie Kemper to Albert Brooks, but the scene-stealer is Kevin Hart as a maniacal bunny rabbit determined to overthrow the human world.

It’s the second film this summer, along with “Central Intelligence,” that harnesses the comedian’s talents in a good way, providing “The Secret Life of Pets” with many of the film’s biggest laughs.

Hart’s work alone is enough to make “Pets” worth your time, but fortunately there is so much more to enjoy in a film that is sure to delight the entire family.

Also in theaters

Another film in theaters that is definitely not for the entire family is “The Purge: Election Year” (B-) the third film in this franchise that actually takes a major step in the right direction. After two uneven entries, the series finds its footing and delivers the best film of the three – one that benefits from being in the right place at the right time.

“Election Year” centers around a senator turned presidential candidate named Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell) who sees the annual purge – one night a year in which all crime is legal – as a way to separate social classes. She runs her campaign on the promise of ending the purge, which resulted in the death of her family many years ago.

Her candidacy is seen as a threat to the new founding fathers, who hatch a plan to eliminate Roan on the night of the latest purge.

The assassination attempt is stopped by Roan’s head of security Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo), but danger continues to loom in all directions with Leo determined to keep Roan safe until the latest purge is complete.

Writer/director James DeMonaco has tapped into some timely subject matter this time, using “Election Year” as kind of a bizarro alternate universe to the current presidential election. It allows the film to tap into some interesting social commentary that gives “Election Year” some unexpected depth.

Subplots involving a local deli owner (Mykelti Williamson) also help advance the narrative, as this franchise evolves from B-level horror into more of a fluff action film.

It’s a welcome shift for a franchise that I wasn’t really a fan of before.

“Election Year” still isn’t for everyone, but if you want a pretty gory bit of action escapism you can certainly do a lot worse than this.

“The Purge: Election Year” is rated R for disturbing bloody violence and strong language and is now playing at the Regal Greenwood Mall Stadium 10 and Highland Cinemas in Glasgow.

— To read Micheal Compton’s thoughts on other films, visit his blog at bgdailynews.com/blogs/reel_to_reel or on Twitter @mcompton428. Email him at mcompton@bgdailynews.com.


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