There’s an unfortunate imbalance to be found within The Secret Life of Pets 2. Last time, the ingenious concept of what our animal companions do when we’re not around was done to decent effect, creating an animal take on the Toy Story plot. Nothing on the level of Pixar, but still cute and fun. Here, the scales are tilted in the wrong direction. Far too much of this film, which admittedly is aimed at children, opts to be silly nonsense just meant to divert young eyes. The potential of the first movie is mostly abandoned. One aspect here is handled well, but the rest is disappointing and trying for an adult to sit through. Consider me very much let down.
The film is a sequel, of course, to The Secret Life of Pets. Again, we follow along with the adventures of various animals while their owners are out and about. Our protagonist is still Max (voice of Patton Oswalt, replacing Louie C.K.), a dog who doesn’t adjust well to changes. When his owner gets married and has a baby, he’s initially reluctant, though soon fiercely protective of the boy. The worries there lead to anxiety, which only gets better once he encounters an older dog in Rooster (voice of Harrison Ford) on a family trip to a farm. Meanwhile, Snowball (voice of Kevin Hart) somehow gets wrapped up in breaking a tiger out of the circus, while Gidget (voice of Jenny Slate) is tasked with protecting Max’s favorite toy while he’s away. It does not go well. Chris Renaud directs, with Jonathan del Val co-directing and Brian Lynch penning the screenplay. Alexandre Desplat composed the score, while the rest of the voice cast includes Lake Bell, Hannibal Buress, Dana Carvey, Tiffany Haddish, Pete Holmes, Ellie Kemper, Nick Kroll, Scott Mosier, Bobby Moynihan, Eric Stonestreet, and more.
What a disappointment this movie is. Only sporadically interested in actually looking at, you know, the secret life of pets, this instead is colorful nonsense meant to distract little kids. Maybe a third of the not even 90 minute running time is dedicated to that supposed main plot point. Instead, we get circus hijinks, rescue missions, and other cartoon shenanigans that, frankly, the premise is above. It’s a complete wasted opportunity to explore a subject that children and adults alike could grab on to. There are cute moments for pet owners, but this time, they’re few and far between. Mostly, it’s throwaway cartoon antics.
A silver lining here is Harrison Ford. His new character Rooster is the best of the bunch, and believe it or not, his somewhat disinterested sounding voice is actually a boon to the proceedings. His voice performance is just dismissive enough to rise above the rest of the characters. Everyone else is just completely not noteworthy. Whereas Patton Oswalt is fine as the new voice behind the lead Max (though not quite as singular a voice as Louie C.K. was), Ford is immediately one of a kind. Oswalt is fine, again, and obviously C.K. had to go. It’s just a shame that so much of this, aside from Ford, is mediocre and forgettable.
This week, audiences who loved The Secret Life of Pets will likely be very interested in The Secret Life of Pets 2. Sadly, they should expect a major downturn in quality. Our furry friends deserved better. This could have been a franchise that delights, though instead it just seeks to pass the time. I can only presume a third installment won’t be far away, and while this isn’t a series to dismiss just yet, the letdown here makes me think that the future is far from promising. I wanted to like this flick. Hell, I wanted to love it. Instead, I was almost annoyed by it…
The Secret Life of Pets 2 is in theaters this weekend.