The Secret Life of Pets 2 (2019)
SHOULD I SEE IT?
If you were a fan of the first film, I see no reason why you wouldn’t be “all-in” on this sequel.
Lighter in story and tone. no underground “murder-your-owner” clubs exist this time around, The Secret Life of Pets 2 is amusing and, at times, quite funny.
Energetic voiceover work, vivid animation, and simply doubling down on efforts to make people laugh, this is a rather enjoyable family film.
This ain’t Pixar.
Even with three concurrent subplots, The Secret Life of Pets 2 doesn’t really have much of any story. This is all rather forgettable and lacks something of an edge the first movie had.
Honestly, there is no real reason to drop the coin needed to see this in theaters. It plays almost like a pilot episode of a television series, and likely would work better in that format.
With a promising trailer, 2016’s animated comedy, The Secret Life of Pets, proved to be a little messy, intermittently amusing and somewhat annoying, but also offered the potential of fictionalizing what occurs in the minds of everyday animals. That’s a rather novel premise for a movie, and especially a concept geared for kids and families. Honestly, who hasn’t secretly wished they could know what their pets were thinking at any given moment?
I hung in as long as I could. But when Kevin Hart’s hyperactive bunny rabbit, Snowball, introduces viewers to an underground club of wayward pets who have “kill a human” as part of their membership requirements. Suffice to say, my record scratched, the stylus snapped, and everything came to a screeching halt.
The conversation on the way home with my 10-year-old was fun, I’ll just say that.
Now, three years later, The Secret Life of Pets 2 finds us revisiting Snowball. now a domesticated, still hyper, wannabe superhero dubbed “Captain Snowball.” A kinder, gentler, bunny rabbit sets the tone for this sequel, a kinder, gentler, more humorous film that steers away from edgy, darker, ill-advised content. By honing in on silliness, forgettable jokes, and sight gags, the film serves as a nice visual soundtrack to the ambient sounds of kids chomping down on popcorn in the theater.
After reintroducing most of the first film’s characters, with Patton Oswalt replacing Louis C.K. as Max, a Jack Russell terrier and our lead dog, if you will, returning screenwriter Brian Lynch recycles a few gags and throws together three main stories.
Max has anxiety as his human owner’s first child, a boy, grows from a baby to a toddler. While on a family vacation, he stumbles upon a grizzled, feisty sheepdog named Rooster (Harrison Ford), who offers Max sage advice, helping him overcome his worries.
Gidget (Jenny Slate), an absent-minded Pomeranian, is tasked with watching over Max’s busy bee while away on vacation. Naturally, she loses it, and the toy makes it way into a home owned by an elderly woman with dozens of cats. Gidget teams with robust tabby cat Chloe (Lake Bell), who helps her with a plan to get the toy back.
And good old Captain Snowball makes friends with a Shih Tzu, Daisy (Tiffany Haddish). Together, they attempt to save a white tiger cub from an abusive owner (Nick Kroll).
And that’s pretty much all there is. At 86 minutes, with credits, Lynch’s screenplay meanders around a bit and although amusing, there isn’t much here that makes this all that memorable.
If anything, The Secret Life of Pets 2 feels structured like an extended pilot episode of a television series. The storylines feel episodic, introductory, and potentially ready for future expansion. While not necessarily a bad thing, as a film, this approach mutes some of the impact. Come to think of it, with this pace, tone, and approach, a television series might be pretty fun with these characters.
The voiceover talent is impressive and engaging. Oswalt proves to be a wonderful replacement in the role of Max. Hart spits out ample energy with ease, the always wonderful Slate and Bell anchor things, while Ford steals the show in his first-ever animated film appearance.
When you weigh the good with the, shall we say, meh moments, The Secret Life of Pets 2 does just enough with its humor to earn a recommendation. You, as parents or guardians, will be entertained, the film feels a bit padded to reach those 86 minutes, but I am hard pressed to find a reason kids would not enjoy this.
Overall, I had fun with The Secret Life of Pets 2. Better movies will come along, but for something light and entertaining, this does the trick.
CAST & CREW
Starring: Patton Oswalt, Kevin Hart, Harrison Ford, Eric Stonestreet, Jenny Slate, Tiffany Haddish, Lake Bell, Dana Carvey, Bobby Moynihan, Hannibal Buress, Chris Renaud, Ellie Kemper, Pete Holmes, Henry Lynch, Nick Kroll, Meredith Salenger.
Director: Chris Renaud
Co-Director: Jonathan del Val
Written by: Brian Lynch
Release Date: June 7, 2019