Movie Guru: ‘The Secret Life of Pets 2’ more fun than original
The Secret Life of Pets 2
Rated: PG for some action and rude humor
Written by: Brian Lynch, with characters by Bryan Lynch
Directed by: Chris Renaud, with Jonathan del Val (co-director)
Starring: Patton Oswalt, Kevin Hart, Harrison Ford, Eric Stonestreet, Jenny Slate, Tiffany Haddish, Lake Bell, Dana Carvey and more
Guru’s grade: Three and a half stars (out of five)
Pets have more exciting lives than we do.
At least, that’s the surprisingly persuasive argument “The Secret Life of Pets” movies continue to make. The sequel is a charming return to the pet universe. It is more loosely plotted than the original but also more fun. If you love dogs, cats or just animated movies with a creative spin, then this is the movie for you.
The pets from the original film are back again in “Secret Life of Pets 2,” this time with a new set of challenges to deal with. Dog pals Max and Duke have a new addition to their family and a host of anxiety issues, while fellow dog Gidget gets in touch with her inner cat. Snowball, a formerly villainous rabbit, explores his heroic side when he takes on a highly dangerous rescue mission.
At first glance, the movie seems to have that episodic quality that too often plagues animated sequels. There’s a very loose thematic tie about facing your fears, but for a good stretch of the movie it feels much less cohesive than the original. The threads tie together at the end in an unexpectedly delightful way, but that has only a minimal effect on the overall structure. It’s interesting, but it technically isn’t cohesive.
In some ways, though, that turns out to be a good thing. That looseness allows the movie to relax and enjoy itself, trying out different things without having to worry about it not fitting the theme. It makes the whole movie feel more playful, infusing it with a welcome, energetic creativity. Watching it, it’s hard not to enjoy yourself.
The movie’s sense of humor helps the process along considerably. Unlike the “Despicable Me”/”Minions” movies, “Pets” combines physical comedy with moments of delightfully low-key oddball humor. An entire sequence with an old cat lady is filled with delightfully strange details. An aggressive turkey is used in a much more carefully balanced way than you’d expect, making it that much funnier. It includes jokes that adults (and clever kids) can appreciate without shoving the “adult” part in everyone’s faces.
The voice cast is fun, with a few particular standouts. Kevin Hart is highly entertaining as the constantly manic Snowball, while Lake Bell gives Chloe the cat a perfectly bored sense of mayhem. Dana Carvey is unrecognizable as an old dog named Pops, but that’s to his credit. Among the new cast members, Tiffany Haddish is an absolute delight as a small, tough dog named Daisy.
It’s not going to change your life, but it’s a lot more entertaining than the standard animated fair. And when it’s done, you’ll never look at your pet the same way again.
Jenniffer Wardell is an award-winning movie critic and member of the Denver Film Critics Society. Find her on Twitter at @wardellwriter or drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.