In Illumination Animation’s new feature, we are brought on a journey to discover the truth of what our pets do when we turn our backs. Particularly centered on the lives of a group of neighborhood pets in New York City. Max is a Jack Russell Terrier(close enough) who loves his human Katie. They are devoted to each other and are living life like no others but the tranquility of this paradise is upturned by a large, shaggy beast known as Duke. Rivalry comes into place right away as Max tries to find a way to get rid of Duke and reclaim his rightful place in Katie’s heart, and his old dog bed. However, when Max finds his upper hand, he overplays it and soon he and Duke are collarless and lost in the Big Apple with no other choice but to depend on each other to find their way back home.
Not quite ‘Despicable Me’, but way better than ‘Minions’, this movie boasts a bouncy, bubbly appearance with a cast of cleverly designed and written characters ranging from cats and dogs to crocodiles and hawks. The story is brisk and moves with a lot of slapstick physical humor along with some clever word play and a few hidden gems that require you to be observant or you’ll miss. The chemistry between the characters is natural and believable. You will buy a poodle becoming best friends with a hawk. It works. While not exactly hitting the emotional depth of a Pixar film, there is an emotional center to Duke’s story that gives hope to something deeper, but unfortunately any movement in that direction is cut short. Very clearly made for a family audience and on that merit, it hits all the right notes. Never boring and always visually engaging. Definitely one to check out. I did not see it in its 3-D format, but I think, based on the opening sequence, it would have been even more impressive.
Now, for the audience. I will go easy on this part of my review because it was a family movie and my friend insisted on going to a mid afternoon show. There were kids. Lots of kids. They were actually rather complacent during the movie. I think that is credited to the films bright and fun look. It was animated and frenetic enough to hold their attention spans. I heard a few babies crying and there was one little girl who was standing on her seat, hopping up and down, but those were minor annoyances overall. For the type of film and the make up of the audience, it wasn’t an unpleasant experience; but I would advise if you are without children, check out a late show of this movie to hopefully ensure a low kid turn out.