The Secret Life of Pets 2 is like a triple-sized, animated episode of Seinfeld with animals instead of people. You probably think I've lost my mind by saying that. No, really, it's true. The film has three separate storylines that all somehow converge at the end. Obviously, we're not talking genius on the level of that classic '90s sitcom, although the movie does have its charms, particularly in regard to one veteran movie star.
The main story involves dog Max (Patton Oswalt, taking over for the disgraced Louis CK) battling anxiety as he attempts to protect his “boy” Liam. As such, his owners send him and fellow pooch Duke (Eric Stonestreet) to a farm for some relaxation. There, Max learns how to toughen up from a grumpy, no-nonsense dog named Rooster (Harrison Ford). Meanwhile, Gidget (Jenny Slate) attempts to retrieve Max's lost toy from the apartment of an elderly lady who has dozens of cats. In the third story, a puppy named Daisy (Tiffany Haddish) recruits rabbit Snowball (Kevin Hart) to help rescue an abused tiger from the circus.
Two fairly prominent flaws dog (pun intended) The Secret Life of Pets 2. First, the premise of the original – imagining what animals do while their owners are away – is largely scrapped here. There's still some observational humor about what pets do, just not nearly to the extent there was the first time. The other issue is that the story about the abused tiger is extremely out-of-place with the ones involving Max and Gidget. It feels as though it comes from a whole different movie.
Those matters aside, the film gets enough right to be a worthy follow-up. Max's journey to newfound courage offers a nice message for kids in the audience. He learns that a little fear is healthy, but too much holds you back. Casting Harrison Ford as Max's gruff mentor was a stroke of genius. His vocal performance is hilarious because, well, Rooster is Harrison Ford as a dog, and the film does that on purpose.
Gidget's thread is really funny, as well. The Secret Life of Pets 2 has a grand time mocking the “crazy cat lady” stereotype. The poor little dog has to disguise herself as a cat to infiltrate the apartment, leading to some clever feline shenanigans. Many of the supporting characters, including the elderly Pops (Dana Carvey), also get laughs as they weave throughout all three story threads.
With bright, colorful animation and an energetic pace, The Secret Life of Pets 2 is decent family entertainment. And even if the Snowball/Daisy subplot is a little wonky, it nevertheless ties in with the other two at the end. Really, though, see this movie for Rooster. Harrison Ford as a cranky dog is worth the price of admission all by itself.
out of four
The Secret Life of Pets 2 is rated PG for some action and rude humor. The running time is 1 hour and 26 minutes.