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The Secret Life of Pets 2 - Review

The Secret Life of Pets 2

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

ONCE word got out that The Secret Life of Pets was such enormous fun, it seemed inevitable that a sequel would follow. Three years on, the follow-up builds on the momentum of its animated predecessor, while perhaps even adding a little more heart.

Directed once again by Chris Renaud, the sequel is a brisk, warm-hearted affair that is both wildly amusing and clever enough to drop in some sly observations about the challenges of parenting and finding your place in an ever-changing, often dangerous world.

Divided into three stories, the primary focus remains on Jack Russell terrier Max (voiced by Patton Oswalt instead of the outed and disgraced Louis CK), as he comes to terms with the arrival of a newborn baby [quickly turned toddler] into his household and the anxieties that looking after him brings.

When these anxieties become too much, Max is taken to the vet and fitted with a cone, exacerbating his own sense of insecurity. But a trip to a relative’s farm brings Max into the care of a tough-talking guy sheepdog named Rooster (Harrison Ford), who challenges him to step up, be brave and overcome his helicopter parenting inclinations.

While Max is away, meanwhile, his neighbouring pets have their own problems to solve. For pampered Pomeranian Gidget (Jenny Slate), it’s retrieving Max’s beloved play toy… something she promised to look after in his absence, but which quickly became lost to an apartment full of cats.

While for superhero-loving bunny Snowball (Kevin Hart), it’s teaming up with sassy Shih Tzu Daisy (Tiffany Haddish) to rescue a timid white tiger from the clutches of a despicable circus owner (Nick Kroll) and his pack of ruthless wolves.

With so many storylines, The Secret Life of Pets 2 could easily have become a disjointed, messy affair that hung together terribly. But Renaud deserves credit for striking a nice balance between each tale, and allowing all of his characters to grow in the process.

Max remains endearing and is voiced well by Oswalt, while Ford brings gruff gravitas and dry humour to his standout role as Rooster (the pick of the new arrivals). But Gidget is also suitably plucky in her own story, and generates plenty of laughs in her attempts to pass off as a cat, while Hart is an unexpected blast as Snowball, whose own quest is vividly realised and the most zany part of the film as a whole.

The mix of comedy styles also works a treat too, for when it’s not emulating the likes of Toy Story (which, ironically, is sure to be one of its biggest competitors this summer), it’s engaging in a surrealist action-adventure style befitting Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted and then dropping in savvy social observations on the pampered nature of pets.

And while the overall result lacks the emotional complexity or darkness of a Pixar release, opting instead for a more straight-forwardly warm approach, it remains a film that can appeal as effortlessly to the kids as it does to the adults. It’s a worthy successor to its own original that offers escapist, and sometimes downright absurdist, fun for all ages.

Certificate: U
Running time: 92mins
UK Release Date: May 24, 2019