The Secret Life of Pets 2
Big screens or small, people will always love watching animals. The Secret Life of Pets cashed in on that fact back in 2016, and without changing the formula too much, The Secret Life of Pets 2 is here to pick up any loose change left.
Smartly recasting the lead voice with Patton Oswalt and ditching the problematic Louis C.K., The Secret Life of Pets 2 once again has Max struggling with change. His human mom Katie (Ellie Kemper) meets Chuck (Pete Holmes), falls in love, and soon has a baby. Though Max isn’t totally sold on the idea at first, he soon gets attached to the whippersnapper, and they’re inseparable. Unfortunately, Max’s protective side takes over and his vigilance against the dangers of the city morphs into full blown anxiety, which manifests with scratching his collar constantly. What better to solve this potentially devastating mental condition than a little time in the country?
Though my tone about mental health may be a bit flippant, it pales in comparison to the casual way that The Secret Life of Pets 2 treats the important issue. Out on the farm, Max encounters another dog named Rooster (Harrison Ford), who’s the cock of the walk. This manly man of a doggy dog never worries about anything and is very open that he thinks Max is too uptight and the baby is too protected. Given the fact that Rooster’s opinions are upheld time and again, it’s clear that the film is making the same argument. If you have clinical anxiety, get out of the city and roll in the dirt; that’ll cure you. The Secret Life of Pets 2 is a film for children and doesn’t need to be taken so seriously, but if it insists on dealing with such weighty topics, it should do so with a little more respect and empathy.
Luckily, the Max and Rooster bits make up only one of three adventures within The Secret Life of Pets 2. There’s also a massive rescue mission to save the squeaky toy Busy Bee from a cat lady’s apartment, and a similar mission to save a caged circus tiger from an evil animal trainer. While the depiction of cat ladies and goth foreigners is also quite negative, the film tries to contain so much plot within its 86-minute running time that some cinematic shorthand at the expense of character development is understandable.
As with most high-profile animated films these days, the cast is superb. There are no throwaways parts, and the additions of Tiffany Haddish and Meredith Salenger are fun inclusions.
Without a doubt, this is the best looking animated film so far in 2019. (I say this being well aware of How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, for the record.) Visually, the depiction of New York City is intentionally cartoonish, but as we wander off to the farm and into the circus tents, the textures and depth of these worlds are shown with alarming detail. Certain items within scenes honestly left me thinking that they were actual shots of balloons or gravel mixed into the animation.
Though it has a kiss of social irresponsibility and it bites off more than it can chew, for the most part, The Secret Life of Pets 2 is an awfully cute way to watch a menagerie of animals being adorable on screen.