I love animals. Over the years, I’ve had my share of both dogs and cats, loving both equally for their many quirks. The Secret Life of Pets was hilarious, managing to capture the essence of our pets and give a funny take on what our pets get up to when we’re not around and their perspective on our idiosyncrasies. When the sequel was announced, I was curious if it would be as good as the original. Sequels frequently tend to lag a bit and the voice of Max, the main character was changed, the studio bringing in Patton Oswalt for the new film. Not only is Patton Oswalt perfect as Max but the second film is as funny as the first, with more crazy pet antics and new characters to love as much as the first movie.
In The Secret Life of Pets 2, Max (Patton Oswalt) and Duke’s (Eric Stonestreet) lives with their human, Katie (Ellie Kemper), have changed. She’s gotten married and has a new baby boy. Liam (Henry Lynch). At first, Max isn’t thrilled but when Liam says he loves Max, everything changes. Liam is Max’s boy and he’ll do everything he can to keep his small human safe. The only problem? There are way too many dangers for Max and he soon becomes afraid of everything. Then, the family goes on a trip to a farm and Max must figure out a way to face his fears with the help of a new friend, Rooster (Harrison Ford) or he won’t be able to protect anyone, himself or his friends.
While Max is away, Gidget (Jenny Slate) is tasked with protecting his favorite toy, Bee, but she loses it into the apartment of a thousand cats. I may be exaggerating but you’ll have to count for yourself. She must exact a plan to get the toy back, enlisting the aid of Chloe (Lake Bell). Snowball (Kevin Hart) is equally busy, making a new friend, Daisy (Tiffany Haddish), who asks for the help of Captain Snowball to rescue a white tiger, Hu, from a circus that is mistreating the animal. The three get into a variety of escapades to solve their problems, but even with help from their friends, Pops (Dana Carvey), Mel (Bobby Moynihan), Buddy (Hannibal Buress) and Norman (Chris Renaud), will they and Max manage to find the solutions to everyone’s problems?
There are so many reasons I loved this movie but really, the biggest reason is the humor. The idea isn’t new, what do our pets do when we’re not around but it expands on it, giving the pets adventures of their own, adding in comedic situations, and absolutely nailing the funniest aspects of pet behaviors. Not only were the children laughing throughout but so were their parents. There were so many funny situations that I can’t even go into all of them without spoiling the movie but each segment continues the comedy from the first movie but adding in fresh, new routines, such as Chloe sitting on her owner to get her out of bed or Snowball dressed up as a superhero. The film was funny beginning to end.
While not a complex story, the writers do a great job of developing the theme of bravery and facing one’s fears. It may have been done before but children will appreciate the idea that life is full of changes but with your friends by your side, including the furry ones, you can face it down and figure it out. Best of all, it never shows that Max is unafraid, in any of the situations he finds himself facing, but his task is to learn to face those fears and embrace them rather than running away. The ending has a beautiful, touching moment that brings all the storylines together.
While most of the comedy is in the various situations the pets find themselves in, more of the adult humor lay with the interactions and contrasts between the animals. When Max meets Rooster, Rooster is his opposite, seemingly unafraid of anything life throws his way and his mannerisms are very much Harrison Ford. Daisy’s dynamic with Snowball is full of contrasting personalities. While Snowball acts tough, Daisy is fierce without the need to brag. And in the rescue mission, we see that she almost doesn’t need Snowball’s help. This dichotomy between the pair and their interactions made for some of the funniest scenes in the movie.
The animation in the movie enhances the story, the artists creating memorable characters, like Hu, the white tiger, and Rooster. Daisy is adorably brave and Gidget is fluffy bravery. The animation style is crisp and clean. While not groundbreaking, the artists have created a fun and entertaining world with animation that has a realistic depiction of the animals.
The voice actors are all incredibly talented. When working in animation, it is always within the voice that the audience gets a true sense of the emotions behind the characters. Patton Oswalt is perfect as Max, emoting his love of Liam and his fear for the dangers he sees all around him. But he is loving and fierce with his desire to protect his boy. Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish are both incomparably funny, the dynamic between the pair adding layers of humor, especially to anyone who has seen the pair in their other films. Jenny Slate as Gidget rocks. A tiny dog shouldn’t be so brave but in this film like the last, Jenny imbues Gidget with a spirit bigger than her tiny body. Lake Bell as Chloe absolutely embodies every cat I’ve ever seen, her tone of voice nailing the attitude. Eric Stonestreet is sweet as Duke, trying to support his friend Max while Harrison Ford as a farm dog is heroic and stalwart. Dana Carvey almost steals his scenes as Pops.
While I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, I do have to point out that it is less focused than the original. There are multiple storylines so it does make the movie feel like there it is almost two different movies. It also leaves Duke more as a side character along with Mel and Buddy. If you are expecting all of your favorites from the first movie, you should be aware that the sequel does change up the characters. But while there are many different elements, the writers do tie the various plots together at the end and all of the previous characters do show up.
If you love your pets, you like movies that are funny and poke fun at both dogs and cats, I highly recommend you check out The Secret Life of Pets 2. I thought it might be even funnier than the first, especially with the addition of Tiffany Haddish, it is exactly what I expected and if you liked the first movie, you will be as entertained by the second.
Rating: 4.5 tigers out of 5.
P.S. Hu, the Tiger totally steals the show!