“The Secret Life of Pets 2”: The pack is back and funnier than ever

Cleveland, Ohio – The delightful “The Secret Life of Pets” took us somewhere few humans had been before: behind closed doors to see what our four-legged family members are up to when we head off for work or school.

The first The Secret Life of Pets was really cute. My whole family, including my mom that was visiting from Florida, went to see it. We laughed together and really enjoyed it. Since timing did not work out to watch it the second in theaters, we watched it at home.

Perhaps it was because we were at home, and not in the theater with it on the big screen, but the second one’s jokes fell more flat for me. However, my daughters were laughing away. Do you know what I mean about watching something in a theater with a large audience? It always seems like there is more emotion, and you feed off each other at certain parts.

Overall, this is a fun movie for the whole family.

There are jokes that parents will laugh at, and of course kids will have a good time with it too. I really loved adding a child in to the mix because it is a big change for pets, I know!

Is this a movie I will watch again and again? Probably not. But my kids will. In fact, they have already watched it three times this week.

A New York City canine appoints himself guardian over a human toddler in “The Secret Life of Pets 2,” a movie that could have been a poignant comedy about the pleasures and horrors of modern child rearing. The filmmakers decided against that, however, and instead opted for a silly, scattered, sporadically amusing kiddie movie.

It was probably too much to ask that this sequel live up to 2016’s “The Secret Life of Pets,” an unexpectedly clever and touching film about what your pets do when you’re not at home. The buddy comedy about two domestic dogs who accidentally join a gang of feral strays was wildly contrived but, thanks to several heartwarming moments, hard to resist.

The 2016 movie from Illumination Entertainment was whimsical, very entertaining, and sometimes a bit sad.

This summer’s follow-up reunites us with the pets we met two years ago, and adds a few new friends to the mix as the crew ventures out to the country from their Manhattan neighborhood, and downtown to a low-rent circus. It’s a wonderfully entertaining, luminously illustrated film, again with a slight undercurrent of sadness that adults may pick up on more than kids, but which makes the happy moments all the brighter.

As in the first movie, and Illumination’s “Minions” films, the colors are bright and candy-colored, the people and places are drawn with quirky flair, and everyone has a bit of an edge – animals included. But unlike many kids films, “The Secret Life of Pets 2” has emotional heft, too — especially if you’re an animal lover.

The film picks up a few years after the first.

Life has changed a lot for scruffy, lovable Max (A LOT; disgraced Louis C.K. has been replaced by Patton Oswalt as the pooch’s voice). He and huge, sloppy St. Bernard-esque mutt Duke (Eric Stonestreet) have settled in happily together. Katie has married and they’ve even welcomed another human to their family, baby Liam. Max, typically neurotic, is so overprotective that he has to wear a cone to stop his nervous scratching.

Downstairs, pampered Pomeranian Gidget (Jenny Slate) is still sweet on Max. Queen-bee cat Chloe (Lake Bell) is still in the lap of luxury, sleeping and eating and breaking things and exerting as little energy as possible, in the way cats do. Snowball (a hilarious Kevin Hart), the rebel bunny leader of the Flushed Pets from the first film, is now happily adopted, forced into a tiny super hero costume by his devoted school-girl owner.

Life goes on as usual.

Then, everything changes at once. Max and Duke and family head to a farm on vacation, something city dog Max is not too happy about, especially after he meets super-alpha dog Rooster. This stern canine (a hilariously macho Harrison Ford) rules the land and tries to whip these city wimps into dog-shape.

Meanwhile, an adorable Shih Tzu named Daisy (a sassy Tiffany Haddish) has made the mistake of thinking Snowball is a real super hero and asks for his help rescuing an abused tiger cub at a grungy downtown circus. (The scenes of the terrified tiger being abused are some of the film’s darkest moments and may scare smaller children, though it’s nothing we haven’t seen before in movies such as “Dumbo.)

Gidget has a scary mission, too. She dropped Max’s favorite toy, Busy Bee, intro the apartment of the crazy cat lady and seeks advice from Chloe on the ways of the cat before daring to enter.

When the pets manage to get the cat lady out of her apartment, these three storylines intersect for a conclusion that is satisfying, drama-filled, sweet and funny at the same time. And that’s something worth barking about … or, er, meowing …

INFO:

Rating: PG (for some action and rude humor)
Genre: Animation, Comedy
Directed By: Chris Renaud, Jonathan Del Val
Stars: Patton Oswalt, Kevin Hart, Harrison Ford
Written By: Brian Lynch
In Theaters: Jun 7, 2019 Wide
On Disc/Streaming: Aug 13, 2019
Runtime: 86 minutes
Studio: Universal Pictures

Adam Graham
The sequel to 2016’s animated hit is even thinner on plot than the first one, whose title promised a look behind the scenes and inside the minds of cats and dogs.

James Berardinelli
Although not “bad” in a conventional sense, it’s a disappointingly mediocre effort that doesn’t have a lot to offer potential viewers over age 10.

Sara Stewart
It’s never a great sign when the biggest laughs a movie gets are during the end credits.

Tessa Smith
The Secret Life of Pets 2 is fun for the whole family. Will I watch it over and over again? Probably not. But my kids will.

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