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The Secret Life of Pets 2 – Movie Review

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The Secret Life of Pets 2 – Movie Review

Rating: B (Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Universal Pictures

The Secret Life of Pets managed to create a funny and charming film, based entirely on the premise of showcasing pets’ adorable quirks. The sequel functions in a similar way, although director Chris Renaud and screenwriter Brian Lynch experiment with the formula a little bit by separating the characters into three distinct stories. This allows the opportunity for even more clever gags, aided by the talented storyboard artists and animators working at Illumination Entertainment. The filmmakers also open up the locations a bit more and the new characters are fun additions to the cast. A sequel should let the characters grow and experience new problems and The Secret Life of Pets 2 does that to a certain extent.

The three stories we follow work on different levels and provide unique joys of their own. The strongest and most thematically rich is Max’s attempt to overcome his fears of the outside world. There is a touching element with the relationship he forms with his owner’s son. We also sense less of the jealous and selfish streak he displayed in the first film. Patton Oswalt replacing Louis C.K. as the voice of Max works to the film’s advantage, too. While C.K. was fine in the role, Oswalt’s voice lends itself to animation and it works as a better contrast to a deadpan dog voiced by Harrison Ford. Max’s time on a farm lends itself to multiple inspired gags with the local animals, including a humourous running joke with a rooster.

The energetic bunny Snowball’s storyline is helped by his pairing with a Shih Tzu named Daisy. As voiced by Tiffany Haddish, she is an excellent addition to the Secret Life of Pets ensemble and they have some great interactions throughout the film. Gidget trying to infiltrate a cat lady’s home also produces the necessary laughs, as this subplot plays on our perceptions of cats. The way the animators fill this apartment with an entire litter of wild felines just makes those sequences that much funnier. Chris Renaud directs the film with the proper energy with a few action scenes even bringing the right level of excitement. Most importantly is how he is able to seamlessly jump between the three story threads.

The Secret Life of Pets 2 really belongs to the animators, though. Illumination has been upping their character animation game with each new release and the various facial expressions they give these animals heightens the comedy. Daisy’s endearing appeal comes not only from Haddish’s peppy voice work, but also how the animators play around with this tiny dog and give her the perfect reactions to Snowball’s hare-brained attempts at superheroism. Adding to the almost experimental nature and “anything goes” attitude of The Secret Life of Pets 2 is an entire 2D animated sequence where Snowball imagines himself as a daring crime fighter and the animators bring the appropriate comic book sensibility to this short day dream.

Is The Secret Life of Pets 2 particularly deep or thought-provoking? Not necessarily, as it’s mostly content to show these pets doing funny things. And they are indeed funny. The intertwining short storylines employed by the sequel were a good decision on the filmmakers’ part, as they allow them the freedom to implement more original ideas than the “Toy Story with pets” premise employed by the first movie. The animals of different shapes and sizes give the artists a variety of ideas to try out and most of them stick in a satisfying way. There is an underlying message about bravery and team work, but the movie is really about fast-paced animated gags and animal hijinks.

Stefan Ellison
THE SCENE


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