Ever since we saw the trailer for this, we were desperate to see the film. It seems we weren't alone, as on opening weekend we struggled to get tickets. We had to leave one multiplex and head to another across town, and even there had to wait for a further two showings before we were able to nab the final three seats in the theatre. I've not experienced such a popular family film in long time.
Squished in the second row and craning our necks, the opening aerial sequence over a lively New York skyline was dizzying. Ruby loved it off the bat as Taylor Swift's Welcome to New York boomed out and the whole audience were tapping their feet and settling in for the ride.
The brilliantly ecclectic soundtrack was a feature throughout, with tunes to delight young and old - from the tween idol Swift, to The Beastie Boy's No Sleep Til Brooklyn and Bill Wither's Lovely Day, with a brief heavy metal burst from Armenian LA band System of a Down, and a deliriously bonkers dancing sausages montage backed by a well-known Grease hit. There's also some Queen, BeeGees and Pharrell Williams thrown in there - told you it was ecclectic.
Those of you that have seen the trailer will know that the comedy moments come mostly from the brilliantly observed animal mannerisms and antics. What pet owner hasn't wondered what they'd discover if they set up a hidden camera while they were out, or strapped a GoPro onto their fur-baby? In fact, if you look closely at the slightly out-of-control house party in one of the scenes, you will indeed spot one wearing a video camera.
The familiarity of the storyline will resonate with kids - think an animal version of Toy Story and you're pretty much there. The cute pet antics of the home-alone felines and canines quickly make way for a fast-paced action movie, which is at times completely bonkers but always brilliantly animated with funny gags abounding. The encounter with a bunch of disshevelled alley cats results in a beautifully choreographed vertical chase scene through hanging backstreet laundry and rooftops, which reminded me of old school Disney movie The Aristocats.
The main character, Max a wise-cracking terrier leads a charmed life with his human Katie, but soon feels usurped by the sudden arrival of the sizeable and dishevelled Duke, also rescued from the pound. Usual sibling rivalry ensues and I can imagine this will strike a chord with children getting to know step-siblings. Ultimately, of course they put aside their differences, learn more about each other's back story and work together to get out of the scrape they're in.
The 'scrape' comes in the form of cute-on-the-outside-crazed-on-the-inside Snowy, a white despotic bunny, rejected object of affection and leader of the underground gang the Flushed Pets.
Ditzy, pouffy Pomeranian Gidget (who I was convinced was voiced by Ariana Grande, turns out I was wrong), finally pulls on her big girl's pants and leads the motley rescue mission. It's great to see a female character kick ass, albeit because of love.
Clearly aimed at pet-lovers - we had to sit through lots of adverts for cat food, as well as some pretty exciting trailers for upcoming movies this summer including The BFG and Swallows and Amazons - if you are a pet owner, you'll adore this film, and even if you're not there's plenty to keep you entertained.