THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS 2, US/France, 2019. Voices of: Patton Oswalt, Kevin Hart, Harrison Ford, Eric Stonestreet, Jenny Slate, Tiffany Haddish, Lake Bell, Dana Carvey. Directed by Chris Renaud, Jonathan Del Val. 86 minutes. Rated PG (Mild themes, animated violence).
When the first Secret Life of Pets was released, many noted that it was a variation on a story where toys, devoted to their owners, came alive with the vitality of their own when the humans weren’t looking! The pets had the same kind of secret life as the toys. And, despite Buzz Lightyear and his activities, the pets had wilder adventures than the toys.
In mid-2019, two films released at the same time, Toy Story 4 and The Secret Life of Pets 2. Needless to say, Toy Story rocked the box office.
But, there was quite some humour in the adventures in the Secret Life of those pets. And, it is the same in the sequel. Not the quite the same kind of sophistication of Pixar filmmaking (one of the secret aspects of the life of these pets is that production was done in France). But, it is all bright and colourful, and, surely,the adults accompanying the children, will generally be delighted, will also enjoy themselves and find much to smile, even laugh with.
While the focus is on Max, and his friend Duke, from the previous film, there are two other strands of adventures which intertwine. And the complication this time, especially with the humans, is that Max’s couple get married, become pregnant, and have a little boy, Liam. Max loves Liam, petting him, like humans treat their pets. And Liam identifies with his dogs, even chomping away at his own food bowl with Max and Duke!
So, Max and Duke have an adventure with Liam and his parents, excitedly travelling by car to a farm. The main dog at the farm is rooster (voiced in his seriously grumpy way by Harrison Ford), rounding up the cows, herding the sheep, giving wise advice to Max, but, ramping up the tension for the film, getting Max to rescue the lamb who got out of the fold, slipped over a cliff and is suspended on a branch, eating away, but foot stuck. Too heavy for Rooster to go down to the branch for the rescue so down goes Max – and a series of narrow escapes but Max finally being commended and rewarded by Rooster.
In the meantime, Chloe, the literal fat cat, is enjoying her luxurious life but encounters Gidget, a fashion plate little dog, and coaches her with some success how to act as a cat! There is also a house full of cats, rather wild cats, looked after by one of those little ladies who, at the end, gets behind the car wheel and causes mayhem while she saves the day.
And, then, there is Snowball, the littlest of bunny rabbits, a protruding-teeth smile, but fancying himself as a superhero, putting on his helmet, inflating himself with his muscles – to the melody of John Williams’ theme for Superman! He does get a mission, urged on by an attractive dog, Daisy, leading to the rescue of a sympathetic young Tiger who has escaped from the circus but is being pursued by a dastardly circus master and his firebreathing hounds.
Not too difficult to work out the plot! What is amusing is the antics of the animals, their secret lives in the comic parallels with humans.
But, one of the great advantages of these Pets films is the voice casting. Patton Oswalt is a sympathetic, sometimes ingenuous, Max. Eric Stonestreet is enjoyable as the rather slow but amiable Duke. Lake Bell enjoys herself as Chloe. Snowball and Daisy are played with the usual patter expected from Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish (who appeared together in Night School). Jenny Slate is Gidget and, as mentioned, who better to be rooster than Harrison Ford!
No objections for The Secret Life of Pets 3.
Universal Released June 13th
Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.