The disjointed ‘The Secret Life of Pets 2’ would work better as a mini-series than a standalone film.
Kernel Rating: 3 out of 5
MPAA Rating: PG Length: 86 minutes
Age Appropriate For: 6+. This sequel to 2016’s “The Secret Life of Pets” follows the characters from the first film, but certain pairings get storylines of their own, and each subplot has some element of danger or rude humor. Pet characters are involved in car and train chases, perilous scenes on cliffsides, and in physical battles with wolves, foxes, and humans, including threats from a gun, thrown knives, fire, and cannons; a person is hit by a car twice and attacked by pets, including one who bites his crotch; there are some slightly tense scenes involving a horde of cats and a deranged turkey; and there are some scary moments including a young toddler and the dangers he may face living in a city, such as speeding traffic. There are a number of rude jokes and insults, including the use of “stupid” and “idiot”; an almost-kiss between two pets; some bathroom humor; and a human character threatening a wild animal with a whip and electrocution.
By Roxana Hadadi
The gang from “The Secret Life of Pets” is all back for “The Secret Life of Pets 2,” a sequel that splits its main characters into various pairings and unfortunately suffers as a connected film because of it. Although each subplot is amusing on its own, the movie’s conclusion falls a little flat because the preceding 70 minutes have been devoted to separate storylines that work better as self-contained narratives. A miniseries, rather than a sequel that relies a little too often on insults for humor, may have been the better choice for “The Secret Life of Pets” franchise.
A few years have passed since the events of “The Secret Life of Pets,” and the sequel begins with Jack Russell Terrier Max (voiced by Patton Oswalt) and Newfoundland mix Duke (voiced by Eric Stonestreet) now caring for the toddler son, Liam, of their owner, Katie. Max and Duke both love Liam, but Max is particularly attached, and increasingly worried and anxious about Liam leaving them or being in danger. Whenever Liam leaves the apartment with his parents, Max calls in their neighboring pets and friends for updates, including Pomeranian Gidget (voiced by Jenny Slate), with whom he shares a romantic relationship; tabby cat Chloe (voiced by Lake Bell); white rabbit Snowball (voiced by Kevin Hart); dachshund Buddy (voiced by Hannibal Buress); and pug Mel (voiced by Bobby Moynihan).
Max becomes so worried that Katie notices, taking him to the vet for his anxiety, resulting in Max being given a cone to keep him from scratching. And while Max and Duke accompany Liam and his parents to a farm outside of New York City for some family time, Gidget is tasked with caring for Max’s favorite toy, and Snowball — who is convinced that he is now a superhero, thanks to the influence of his owner — makes a new friend, Daisy (voiced by Tiffany Haddish), who asks Snowball to help her free a tiger, Hu, who is being held by a cruel circus owner.
“The Secret Life of Pets 2” cuts between these various storylines, and each of them hammers home messages about being brave and resourceful in order to grow as an individual and help others in need. Gidget taking her promise to Max very seriously allows for the character to be practical and prepare for a challenge, which will be a nice message for young viewers, and the same goes for Snowball and Daisy, who put aside their fear of the circus’s threatening animals to help Hu. But there are some negative elements of each storyline, too. Snowball and Daisy’s subplot involves an increasing amount of violence, including fist-fights, fire, the appearance of a gun, and two car accidents, and there is some racial stereotyping present in their characters, too. And although Max gains confidence at the farm under the tutelage of Welsh Sheepdog Rooster (voiced by Harrison Ford), the movie suggests that there was nothing really wrong with Max that being outside in nature couldn’t fix, which seems to discredit mental health struggles. The way Max’s character is treated, as if he simply needs to be more stereotypically alpha or masculine to feel better about himself, may be worth discussing with children after the film.
“The Secret Life of Pets 2” nicely expands this world with the scenes set in the farm, and new characters like Daisy and Rooster are good additions to broaden the cast. But the movie’s reliance on insults, gross moments, and violence for humor continue the franchise’s worst instincts.
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