“The Secret Life of Pets 2” stars Patton Oswalt, Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart, Jenny Slate, Ellie Kemper, Lake Bell, Dana Carvey, Hannibal Buress, Bobby Moynihan, Tiffany Haddish, Nick Kroll, Pete Holmes, and Harrison Ford. Released on June 7, 2019, the film continues the adventures of Max, Duke, and their friends.
The film is directed by Chris Renaud, who also directed “Despicable Me”, “The Lorax”, and “Despicable Me 2”. It is a sequel to the 2016 animated film, “The Secret Life of Pets”, which was also directed by Renaud. Sometimes we all wonder what our pets do when we are away. They could be sitting around and doing nothing all day until we get back or they could be doing all kinds of crazy stuff like hanging around with the other pets or listening to our radio behind our backs. This bizarre thought transformed itself into one of the most successful animated films that Illumination has ever produced outside of the “Despicable Me” films. The best way I could describe “The Secret Life of Pets” is this: it’s “Toy Story” with pets. That’s literally all you need to know about it. Even though it didn’t have quality storytelling compared to the “Toy Story” films, it was able to provide enough animated goodness to impress both kids and pet lovers alike and earn a huge chunk of money at the box office. Now, we have ourselves a follow-up that once again explores what the pets have been up to when we’re not around, which should keep us in good hands until the next “Minions” movie arrives next year. But is it a follow-up that we truly deserve or should it be left alone in the doghouse?
Much like its predecessor, the story in “Secret Life of Pets 2” has the main pets on a series of misadventures while their owners are off doing…whatever it is they’re doing nowadays. The film’s plot consists of three stories that tie themselves together during the final act. The first story has Max (Oswalt) attempting to overcome his anxiety after his owner (Kemper) gets married and has a child. The second story involves Gidget (Slate) retrieving Max’s favorite toy from a bunch of cats, while the third story has Snowball (Hart) teaming up with a Shih Tzu named Daisy (Haddish) to rescue a white tiger from an abusive circus owner (Kroll), making this the latest collaboration between Hart and Haddish after their success with “Night School". At first, I was a bit worried that the latter two would serve as unnecessary filler compared to Max’s story, but after watching the third act, I was glad that they didn’t go down that route. However, that doesn’t mean I’m letting this film off the hook that easily. Like most animated sequels, the film suffers from an undeniable case of “franchise-building over quality”, which means that the sequel is just there to entertain the little ones and sell a bucket load of merchandise. While its themes were well-intended and its animation style was charming, irresistible, and colorful, the plot had a nasty habit of taking a lot of easy routes and not emphasizing its characters that much, especially Snowball, who is now a superhero. What a way to redeem yourself after the first movie, buddy. This flaw might not suit well for those who want quality storytelling in animated films, but if you don’t care about that, then by all means, go in there and enjoy the film’s cuteness. All of the main actors from the original reprised their roles as their respective characters with the exception of Louis C.K., who voiced Max in the first film, and they once again played their parts extremely well, especially Hart as Snowball. It took me a while to get used to Patton Oswalt voicing Max instead of C.K. After viewing the film for myself, I was honestly OK with this casting change. Going back to the characters, most of them, including the new ones, were pretty flawed when it comes to development. They either serve as a way to highlight the film’s themes or as tools to move the plot along and provide some silly, yet relatable, humor. Characters like Duke (Stonestreet), Gidget, and Chloe (Bell) are the examples of the latter.
Overall, “The Secret Life of Pets 2” offers the same amount of cuteness and pet-related shenanigans that we’ve come to expect from a full-length cartoon about talking pets, for better or for worse. Despite its colorful animation and its well-crafted humor, the film earned itself a trip to the vet due to its lackluster plot and weak characters. Like I mentioned before, the sequel only cares about starting another animated franchise for the little ones instead of providing quality storytelling. Nevertheless, it’s a charming appetizer that the kids will enjoy until we get to the main course later this month. You know the one I’m talking about. It’s not the best film that Illumination has made, but in terms of its sequels, it was a bit better than “Despicable Me 3”. If you enjoyed the first film, I can surely bet that you might enjoy this one as well.