Movie Review: ‘The Secret Life of Pets 2’


Director: Chris Renaud

Cast: Patton Oswalt, Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart, Tiffany Haddish, Lake Bell, Nick Kroll, Dana Carvey, Ellie Kemper, Harrison Ford

Plot: A cross section of pets work through a variety of personal conflicts.

Review: I almost forgot to write this review. That really should tell you everything you need to know.

I’ve made no secret of my dislike of Illumination Animation. I don’t like their visual style, I don’t like their ‘cheap and fast’ approach to animation and storytelling and I hate the fact the their cost cutting as resulted in nobody having nostrils. Seriously, look at all their films. Nobodies noses have opened nostrils. It creeps me out.

I’ll give credit to Illumination for two things. The first is that they recast the sex offender who originally voiced the lead role. Patton Oswalt makes everything better. The second credit is managing to put the least possible effort into your sequel. Even with the slim 86 minute runtime there is not enough story here. For the bulk of the film most of the ensemble cast are pursuing their own plots that don’t intersect until the end, and none of these side characters have enough personality to carry their own stories.

Time to explain what squats in the place of the story here. We open with Jack Russell terrier Max (Oswalt) assures us that he is not a fan of kids. No way, no how. But then his owner has a baby and he loves the kid and gets stressed out about keeping the kid safe. The father of the child has zero personality, and Max’s friend Duke (Stonestreet) is basically wallpaper. The family take a trip to a farm where Max meets Rooster (Ford), who coaches him on being tougher. Meanwhile, Pomeranian Gidget (Slate) has been tasked with looking after Max’s favourite toy but it ended up in an old cat woman’s house, so she has to get it back. Finally, that stupid rabbit (Hart) is a superhero now and rescues a baby tiger from a circus.

These plots all come together when the evil Russian circus owner (Kroll) sets a pack of vicious wolves on the inner city apartment building the pets live in. You know, that old trope. Nothing really connects these stories except for the awkward inclusion of several crude racial stereotypes. Given that none of these story’s have any stakes to speak of, nor do the characters have any noteworthy development, this movie really drags on.

Confusingly the final trailer had more character development than the film we saw. There’s an exchange in the trailer between Max and Rooster wherein Rooster gives some life advice about being a salt-of-the-Earth grizzled type. It was something along the lines of pretending that you’re not scared is the first step to not being scared. This never occurred in the film. The go from meeting and hating each other to having this father/son relationship with no in-between. What was the thinking of this?

Even for a studio who I hold no expectations for, this was a dud.

But…

My kids really enjoyed it. Loved it, laughed often. So there’s that. Kids were happy. I’m happy about that.

Rating: TWO out of TEN