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(Photo Courtesy: Universal Studios)
(Photo Courtesy: Uni­versal Studios)

How do pets react to their humans staying home on weekends? What about when their owners have friends over? What do they think about tele­vision or videogames? Does New York City really allow pet alli­gators?

These are all burning ques­tions that “The Secret Life Of Pets” leaves unan­swered.

Despite its title, “Pets” doesn’t depict as much of the everyday secret life of pets as one might expect. That’s a shame because the movie’s strongest moments involve playing off viewers’ expec­ta­tions (and fears) of what their pets nor­mally do when the humans are away.

“Pets” is a story about learning to share and get along with others, and after the lights go down, the viewer meets the two who need to learn the lesson. First is Max, a pam­pered pet pooch com­fortable with his life as his owner Katie’s only pet, and second, Duke, a giant brown dog Katie brings home from the pound, threat­ening to ruin Max’s perfect life.

Max, ini­tially cold toward the new­comer, is forced to work with him when they find them­selves first wel­comed, then rejected, and finally chased across New York City by an extremist group of dis­owned animals known as the Flushed Pets. It’s left up to the neighbor dog Gigit, Max’s wannabe girl­friend, to assemble the pets of the apartment building to stage a daring rescue.

While it pro­vides per­fectly good enter­tainment, the plot falls short of leg­endary movies like “The Incred­ibles” and “Finding Nemo” because the movie lacks a familial aspect.

Max and Duke have less meat to their rela­tionship than Nemo had with his father or the Incred­ibles had as a strong family. The movie would have ben­e­fitted from keeping more true to its title by allowing Max and Duke to bond over a whole (more normal) week rather than a single, extra­or­dinary day.

The sup­porting cast, a plethora of animals, still manage to be great char­acters despite the short timeline, however. They duti­fully and hilar­i­ously conform to their respective stereo­types (i.e. the fat cat, the gullible dog). But be they a lovestruck Gigit or a rejected rabbit, each still manages to have a fleshed-out back­story.

Another area in which “Pets” shines is its lack of political moti­vation.

In the wake of the heavy-handed mes­saging in movies like “Zootopia,” “Pets” presents a welcome return to non­par­tisan kids movies. Only two overtly political moments exist in the film, one where the Flushed Pets seems to be equated with the Black Pan­thers, and another involving a bridge, a bunny, and a brain injury ending in a statement that comes one syl­lable away from causing an ACLU lawsuit.

“Pets” is an example of a won­derful premise exe­cuted with mediocre passion. Rather than answering the sorts of ques­tions the title brings to mind in a clever, enter­taining way, the movie settles for uno­riginal gim­micks like minutes-long, sausage-induced LSD trips and the like.

At the end of the movie, the viewer is left asking the same question they thought the movie would answer: What is the secret life of pets? Max and Duke overcome a crazy day, but as the credits begin to roll, one is left asking, “What are they going to do tomorrow?”