The Secret Life of Pets 2 can be seen as a lot of things: a lousy sequel, something no one asked for but still received, and a missed opportunity for Illumination to get its original Despicable Me mojo back. Even with these gigantic insults to the film, it’s really a harmless film that works as fine family entertainment that kids will most likely love for its simplicity, and adults will like for not being, well, Minions.
Director Chris Renaud returns to direct the second outing of The Secret Life of Pets 2 and while a majority of his outings are quality directing efforts, his previous film, the original The Secret Life of Pets, was an absolute disappointment in terms of the quality he’d released prior. The film feels straightforward and simplistic, which is something that I would never have seen coming for this sequel - not trying to impress with its story and instead just existing. While Renaud might not have recaptured the originality from his earlier work, the drastic simplicity is far better than the irritating nature of the Toy Story copycat that is the original The Secret Life of Pets.
The plot flows awkwardly with the film jumping from different animals’ perspectives while encountering sudden hijinks. The film acts as though it originated as a tv show or multiple shorts combined to make a feature length film with only the end bringing all the characters together for a predictable outcome. While elements of the story are fun, it’s their combination that makes the scenes less effective when it comes to being memorable. The villain arc feels incredibly tacked onto the film, with Snowball (from the first film) raising high in the ranks in comparison. The story gags help to move the plot along, working fine for the most part, but there are some less than stellar tossed in jokes that fail to accumulate even a chuckle.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Where the first one lacked majorly, the second succeeds and that’s with the casting choices they’ve made. Before mentioning the obvious change, I would love to mention that Harrison Ford’s minimal role was by far my favorite part of the film; it’s not worth seeing the film for this role alone, but it’s hilarious knowing who’s behind the voice. Now the obvious change is the voice of our lead, Max (formerly voiced by Louis C.K.) is now voiced by Patton Oswalt, whom after hearing in the role is a perfect casting - the casting that should have happened the first time around. There is some real talent in this film, many of who are returning, and they come into their own in The Secret Life of Pets 2, bringing an energy that I personally feel was excluded from the original film. Tiffany Haddish and the already mentioned Harrison Ford have joined the cast this time around, with the two of them being a bright light among the slew of characters. Nick Kroll’s villainous Sergei has a very odd, almost inside joke level character design, resembling the wicked witch of the west from The Wizard of Oz.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
One thing that may or may not be factually true but I’ve seemed to notice, is that Illumination films will reuse pieces of score in their newer films. So while some pieces of Alexandre Desplat’s score do help the emotion be better conveyed, it feels recycled at the same time, making it less compelling. The sound design is fantastic, really opening the city with noise and bringing every creature to life with almost parody-like animal noises (most notably the cats in the film - also one of the best parts).
Something that has never changed with Illumination films is the quality of the animation, as all of their films have the same type of animation style. While it may be losing its uniqueness the seventh time around, the animation is still vibrant and easy on the eyes. The character designs from the previous movie return and they’re familiar but not anything special in this sequel. The addition of costumes for Kevin Hart’s Snowball is a hilarious change of character for the once villainous bunny. The elder farm dog voiced by Ford matches the actor perfectly, and Tiffany Haddish’s voice coming out of a cute little dog is unreasonably funny on a personal level. However, as mentioned earlier, the odd villain design is a huge setback for the film, but his role is relatively minimal during The Secret Life of Pets 2’s runtime.
The Secret Life of Pets 2 is fine. It’s nothing to go out of your way and see to be honest. Unless your child is a huge The Secret Life of Pets fan I wouldn’t even bother with this film at all. There’s a lot of missed opportunities with this one, which is a pattern that continues to arise from Illumination productions. Fortunately for people who have to go see this film for their children (or for their own desire), it’s the most tolerable of the recent releases. It might not be up to the standards left by the first Despicable Me, but it’s certainly better than a single insufferable second of 2015’s Minions. I would like to conclude this review with a fact that you may or may not know about the screenwriter Brian Lynch: one of his earliest credits is writing the 2005 Robots short that accompanied the feature titled “Aunt Fanny’s Tour of Booty.” That is all.