Directed by: Chris Renaud and Jonathan del Val
Premise: A follow up to the 2016 film about the social lives of pets living a New York City apartment building. Max and Duke (voices of Patton Oswalt and Eric Stonestreet) travel to the country. Gidget (voice of Jenny Slate) pursues a lost toy. Snowball (voice of Kevin Hart) and Daisy (voice of Tiffany Haddish) release a tiger being held by a cruel circus owner.
What Works: The Secret Life of Pets 2 diverges into multiple storylines and Max and Duke’s journey to the farm is easily the best segment of the film. Max is used to the comforts of domestic life and he is easily frightened for himself and for his owner’s son. While at the farm, Max encounters Rooster, a sheepdog who doesn’t suffer fools. Rooster shows Max the ropes of rural life and this part of the movie has the most substance to it as Max must rise to the occasion. Max’s story is a critique of the neurotic over-protectionism of contemporary parenting and the message is delivered clearly but without becoming didactic. The farm story parallels the other subplots in which Gidget and Snowball and Daisy each face their fears and act courageously and the various storylines come together quite well. The Secret Life of Pets 2 has an impressive voice cast. Most of the original cast returns but Patton Oswalt steps in to replace Louis C.K. as the voice of Max. Oswalt is a good substitute, in part because his timbre is similar to Louis C.K.’s, and the recasting is mostly seamless. A new addition to The Secret Life of Pets 2 is Harrison Ford as Rooster. Ford is perfectly cast and his gruff delivery suits the sheepdog. Like its predecessor, The Secret Life of Pets 2 plays for pet people. The moviemakers incorporate the odd behaviors of cats and dogs and animal lovers will get a laugh out of it.
What Doesn’t: The Secret Life of Pets 2 comes across incomplete. It does not seem as though the filmmakers ever settled on what story they wanted to tell. The first movie was quite clear; it was about Max learning to share his home and his owner with Duke. The new movie sets up a similar trajectory for Max as he learns to like and protect his owner’s young son. But this is all dealt with in the prologue sequence. From there the movie divides into multiple storylines and The Secret Life of Pets 2 often feels as though its script was cobbled together from multiple proposed sequel treatments. The movie only runs eighty-six minutes and it plays less like a feature film and more like a series of shorts. The Secret Life of Pets 2 is nowhere near as inventive as the first movie. That film lived up to its title in imagining the social lives of animals residing in a New York City apartment building. The sequel doesn’t come up with much that’s new nor does it make use of the New York setting. Where the first Secret Life of Pets was a family movie—it was intended for children and their parents—the sequel is geared much more toward its younger viewers.
Bottom Line: The Secret Life of Pets 2 has parts that are inspired but as a whole the film is underwhelming. This picture ought to entertain young viewers and animal lovers but The Secret Life of Pets 2 feels as though it was cobbled together hastily and without much thought.
Episode: #753 (June16, 2019)