The Secret Life of Pets 2 (Jonathan del Val/Chris Renaud, 2019) 2 out of 4 stars.
I’m always hesitant to review a sequel. As a critic, you want to do your job of critiquing an artist’s work with as much context as possible. Sometimes you want to go to the theater and sit down and pray that the film has a weak connection to its predecessor. Thankfully The Secret Life of Pets 2 never tries to continue the story left off in its predecessor. Instead, Pets 2 is a serviceable distraction for all families alike who are looking for a cotton-candy-topped-with-whipped-cream type of day out.
In The Secret Life of Pets 2, Max the dog, now voiced by Patton Oswalt, can’t seem to scratch away this nervous tick he’s been having lately. What’s the cause of the stress? Max’s owner and her husband have welcomed a baby boy in their lives. While Max adjusts to taking care of this new member of his family, other pets from the first film, voiced by Jenny Slate, Kevin Hart, and Lake Bell, inadvertently go on their own hair-raising adventures. Knowing that the plot of the first Pets film was more streamlined and followed Max’s story to the letter, it’s interesting that directors Chris Renaud and Jonathan del Val chose to craft this sequel as separate vignettes. Short stories strung together into a feature-length film isn’t a horrible idea, especially for a children’s animated film, but Max’s story of adjusting with a new member of the family, a story a lot of kids can relate to, is severely weakened by a distracted vision.
Later in the film, Max travels to the family farm and meets a gruff and wise sheepdog, Rooster, played perfectly by Harrison Ford. Here is where Max’s wish to be a better pseudo-parent to his owner’s child turns into an abrupt and generic storyline of finding the confidence within you. These two characters share a couple of poignant moments, including one that teaches that sheltering a child too much can do more harm than good. However, this is the height of the film’s maturity. The story of The Secret Life of Pets 2 is hardly deserving of the silver screen, but that doesn’t mean the film’s animation is just as lacking. Illumination Studios continues to generate wonderfully colorful and, for lack of a better word, poppy visuals that have yet to fail to capture the imaginations of millions of children.