Three years after the original movie, Max, Duke, and the rest of the gang return for The Secret Life of Pets 2. Starring the voice talents of Patton Oswalt, Kevin Hart, Tiffany Haddish, and Eric Stonestreet, the movie plays like the pilot episode for Secret Life of Pets: The Series. Whether or not that’s a good thing is up to the viewer to decide.
Unlike the first Secret Life of Pets, the sequel does not have one main plot. Instead, it is formatted in an episodic way. There are three different storylines going on at once – each starring at least one of the original pets.
The first storyline involves Max (Oswalt) and Duke (Stonestreet) joining their family on a trip to the countryside. While there, Max is taught by an older dog, Rooster (Harrison Ford), how to relax and face his fears. Meanwhile, Duke… just kind of exists. The second storyline involves Gidget (Jenny Slate) attempting to retrieve Max’s chew toy that she loses while he is on his trip. The final storyline stars Snowball (Hart), posing as a superhero, as he attempts to help Daisy (Haddish) free a circus tiger from captivity. All of these are simple stories that we have seen done before. Despite not really feeling like a movie, it still works as light entertainment.
“Despite not really feeling like a movie, it still works as light entertainment.”
Replacing Louis CK as the voice for Max, Oswalt is perfectly cast for the stressed out character. In fact, he probably should have been cast as Max in the first place. The anxiety that Max is feeling is present in Oswalt’s voice, which leads to a more believable character. And I recognize how silly it is to refer to the believability of a story in which a horde of cats drive their owner around New York City. Despite the simplicity of it, Max’s story is the only one that feels like it could have been a feature length film.
The rest of the movie feels like the writers couldn’t decide which subplot to go with so they went with all of them. That’s not entirely a complaint. It does mean that the film lacks clear focus. It does, however, move at a much-welcomed quick pace.
The degree of success in separating these characters may vary depending on the viewer. For me, it was a nice change of pace. A lot of the characters are loud, dynamic, and full of energy so, in the end, this helps the movie. Allowing space between the characters so that the audience can breathe makes for a less frantic product. This is especially helpful for the character of Snowball (Hart), who is toned down in the sequel.
“Allowing space between the characters so that the audience can breathe makes for a less frantic product.”
Because this movie feels a lot less frenetic than the original, the humor lands more smoothly. They feel more specific to these characters and this movie, rather than feeling like a slightly different take on another animated movie. Comparisons to Toy Story are distracting when watching the first movie in the Pets universe. Its sequel, though not the most original work of art, is its own movie. Lacking obvious comparisons, outside of its predecessor, allows Secret Life of Pets 2 to exist on its own terms.
As a whole, The Secret Life of Pets 2 is a step above the original movie. It won’t change the world. In fact, it is unlikely that it will be remembered by July. It lacks the focus of the first one but it does have more humor and does more with its concept. It integrates the new characters in with the old characters in a relatively seamless way so that they feel like they were there all along. At the top of this review, I mentioned that this feels like the pilot episode for Secret Life of Pets: The Series. If that idea comes to fruition, sign me up.
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