There is a certain beauty to films like The Secret Life of Pets 2 that exists only to serve you happiness, even if of the fleeting variety. The original was a lovely little film that made us see what pets could likely do when their human companions are not around. It got labelled ‘Toy Story with animals’ but I have always felt that to be a shallow comparison. The second film of the franchise provides further evidence of this.
Let me give you an example. Pets 2 sees the return of Duke (Eric Stonestreet), a brown shaggydog, still a bundle of optimism, who complements his partner, Max (Patton Oswalt), a terrier who has become neurotic (because Duke and Max’s owner Katie has given birth to a child, Liam, and Max is no longer the cynosure of Katie’s love).
If this had followed in the footsteps of Toy Story 2, it would have explored this angle to the hilt. But it changes as Max slowly falls in love with Liam to the point that he takes care of him, every step of the way. In a chance outing on the streets alongside Liam and his dad, Max begins to wonder if streets are safe to walk on anymore.
But Pets 2 isn’t just about Max and Duke. It is also about Snowball (Kevin Hart), the white rabbit, who has now assumed the role of a superhero. When a newcomer in Daisy (Tiffany Haddish), a Shih Tzu, tries to enlist his help, Snowball gets his own superhero arc. It is also about Gidget (Jenny Slate), a white Pomeranian who is still in love with Max and is trying to safeguard an item that the latter has left in her possession. But she loses it to a home full of cats and now has to get it back, and she is willing to do anything for her love.
Its three distinct stories are largely the film’s strength. When Max and Duke go off to the country side for a vacation, we see Max growing up thanks to Rooster, a Welsh Sheepdog voiced by Harrison Ford. I could not believe this is his debut voice acting role; his scenes are absolutely riotous (we really should treasure him!). The way he takes Max under his wing and raises him is like a grandpa raising his grandson, with tough love whenever required.
For an animal with no support system, it is quite heartfelt when he gets an approval from the clear alpha male. Harrison Ford brings his old country swag to the role that is utterly unique and charming. However, I didn’t much care for the scene where he sees Max being given a cone by his doctor (for behavioral disorder) and says, “You are fine. Go ahead.” It isn’t great messaging regarding mental health, especially to the demographic it is targeted at.
The film largely understands its target demographic though, and the best scenes are reserved for Gidget getting trained as a cat by returning tabby cat, Chloe, voiced by a scene-stealing Lake Bell. A case in point is Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit kicking in at the same time that Chloe has a catnip. It is definitely a high point (pun intended) of the film.
These antics are on point and show how much observational humour can add to a story. It is also clear that such observations have come about, thanks to the Internet, and the film’s credits in fact show us a bunch of hilarious kid-and-pet videos.Pets 2 doesn’t perhaps have as much depth, but this shouldn’t be held against it. It aspires to be a simple, silly film with no great ambitions, and for 86 minutes, it delivers.
Film: The Secret Life of Pets 2
Director: Chris Renaud
Cast: Patton Oswalt, Katie Bell, Harrison Ford, Kevin Hart, Jenny Slate, Tiffany Haddish, Eric Stonestreet
Rating: 3/5 stars