The Secret Life of Pets chronicles the daily doings of pets after their owners leave for work each day. Set in New York, the story centres on Max (voiced by Louis C.K) and the other animals that live in his apartment building.

Max is very happy with his life, apart from the miserable period he must endure almost every day when his owner Katie (Ellie Kemper) leaves. Max passes the day waiting for Katie to return with his friends Gidget, Buddy, Mel, Chloe the Cat and Sweetpea the Budgie. Max’s life, however, is derailed when Katie unexpectedly returns home one day with another dog. Duke, a stray Katie has rescued from the pound, is very big and very hairy.

Introduced to Max as his ‘new brother’, Max dislikes him instantly, not wanting to have to compete for Katie’s attention. A power struggle ensues between the two canines ultimately resulting in the pair getting lost in the Big Apple. A near miss with the dog catcher sees them fall in with the wrong crowd, a strange group of underworld pets living in the sewers. Led by a bunny named Snowball these animals were all abandoned by their owners. As a result they have developed a deep dislike and distrust of humans. Max and Duke, not wanting to end up like these animals hope that their ‘raw primal instincts’ will help them navigate home. After all, they are descended from the mighty wolf. Meanwhile, Gidget assembles a band of followers to search the city for the missing dogs.

This latest offering from Illumination, the team behind Despicable Me and Minions is a definite all round family pleaser. Themes and messages of friendship, acceptance and adjusting to changes in the home (perhaps particularly apt if a new brother or sister is on the way) are communicated in a fun and easy to understand way, sure to resonate with younger viewers. And like Illumination’s earlier films, adults will find themselves laughing along with their kids and relating to the storyline. Snowball is at times a little too blood thirsty, which may not be great for the very young. Despite several misadventures on the road (animals really shouldn’t be driving buses!) however, and some impressive slips, falls and collisions, no actual blood or gore is shown. The Secret Life of Pets is in cinemas nationally from September 8.

Words by Gemma Easton