Review: ‘The Secret Life of Pets 2,’ Cheerfully Amusing

Some pets are better than others.

By that, I mean some animals adapt more readily to living as domestic pets under the care and control of humans. In the delightful animated adventure The Secret Life of Pets (2016), we learned that pets can still manifest an independent spirit, apart from their so-called ‘owners.’

Now, three years onward, we learn that, er, pets be pets? Frankly, I can’t easily discern the intended message behind The Secret Life of Pets 2, but it may not really matter what adults think. As I wrote about its predecessor, the sequel is “designed for a young crowd, those under the age of 7 or so. For that demographic, the movie delivers splendidly, filled as it is with juvenile humor and occasional poop jokes.”

While the first film set up various conflicts that its lead character, Max (voiced then by Louie C.K., now by Patton Oswalt) resolved over the course of its episodic story, the sequel is largely absent any major conflicts. After all, Max’s former antagonists are now his friends: fellow apartment dweller Duke (Eric Stonestreet) and villain turned sweet cat Snowball (Kevin Hart). So, the filmmakers conjure up new situations that are more pleasant diversions than possibly life-changing alterations.

One week, Max and Duke accompany their owners on a visit to an older cousin’s farm. Max, who has become stressed-out as he endlessly strives to protect his owner’s new infant daughter in the dangerous city, finds country living to his liking, especially the farm’s gruff yet kindly resident kingpin, the magnificent dog Rooster (Harrison Ford).

Meanwhile in the city, neighboring cat Gidget (Jenny Slate) has been entrusted with caring for Max’s beloved toy, which leads her to an encounter with a cat lady and her thousand cats. In the third concurrent episode, former tough guy turned softie Snowball rises to the challenge of new character Daisy (Tiffany Haddish), who wants to rescue a lion from mean-spirited captors.

It’s all harmless fun, of course, and the film eventually delivers encouragement about standing up for yourself and your friends, and mustering up courage when needed. Written by Brian Lynch and directed by Chris Renaud and Jonathan del Val, the creative team provides sufficient humor and an abundance of adorable animal critters to satisfy its intended audience.

It’s true that the ‘secret’ part of the title has largely been abandoned here, but perhaps the creative team felt that those possibilities had been exhausted in the first film. Instead, much action is packed into the final few sequences, leading to a happy resolution and the implied promise of more episodic sequels. Help yourself.

The film opens in theaters throughout Dallas on Friday, June 7, 2019.

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