Directed by: Chris Renaud
Written by: Brian Lynch
Featuring the Voices of: Patton Oswald, Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart, Jenny Slate, Tiffany Haddish, Lake Bell, Nick Kroll, Dana Carvey, Ellie Kemper, Hannibal Buress, Bobby Moynihan, Harrison Ford
One of the many reasons I like the movies is because it allows me to escape from my reality. Of course, when you write reviews as I do, it isn’t as much an escape now, but I don’t mind it. I enjoy sharing my thoughts with the rest of the world.
And that’s how I felt about “The Secret Life of Pets”, which opened our eyes to the loveable Jack Russell Terrier, Max. The movie allowed me to escape from my reality of being a non-pet lover into a world of imaginative and creative dogs. I wasn’t a fan of the film because it took itself a little too seriously.
It did well enough at the box office that the sequel, “The Secret Life of Pets 2” was greenlit and it hits theaters this weekend. Much like the first film, the animation is gorgeous. We’ve gotten to a point where computer generated images have become as believable as the real world.
The challenge is that the story telling still hasn’t necessarily caught up with the animation (unless you’re Pixar). “The Secret Life of Pets 2” picks up three years after the first film. Patton Oswalt has replaced Louis C.K. who voiced Max in the first film. I found Max to be a bit more loveable and warm as a result of the change.
The story forwards us through Katie (voiced by Ellie Kemper) as she gets married to Chuck (Pete Holmes) and they have baby Liam. Just like the spoiled kid who finally gets a younger sibling, Max fears being replaced by Liam. The story takes on a dual role in that Max is also feeling like the overprotective bigger brother and no matter how many times Duke (Eric Stonestreet) tries to reassure him, Max just won’t have any of it. There are some cute moments as Katie tries to get some help for Max, but what they all really need is a trip away from the big city.
Max entrusts his favorite toy in the care of Gidget (Jenny Slate), who very quickly loses it. Her story thread was interesting as Lynch explores the idea of a dog playing a cat. Gidget’s story elicits some chuckles and it was a nice way to tie in the more humane part of the story.
As Max, Liam and the rest of the family head off to the country, trouble is still afoot for Snowball (Kevin Hart), a white rabbit who sounds like he’s had a six pack too many of Red Bull. His owner likes to cosplay with him, leading him to believe that he is a superhero. To some, his story will be exactly that as he tries to rescue a white tiger from a circus. It is, as I mentioned the most humane story about coming together to rescue a distressed animal.
More importantly though is what happens to Max during his country adventure. This is where the characters get creative in their environments as Max learns to deal with his inadequacies with the help of a familiar sounding farm hand dog, Rooster.
The story runs a little off the rails in the third act as Renaud and Lynch try to tie the lessons of the three stories together. It’s a bit murky, but the laughs, the humanity and my god, the animation keep “The Secret Life of Pets 2” redeem the film.
If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to find a dog to hug now.
2.75 out of 4