When “The Secret Life of Pets” arrived in theaters in 2016, it was a pleasant surprise – an inspired animated film that was fun for all ages.
It was only a matter of time before the sequel arrived, and here we are with “The Secret Life of Pets 2.”
While “Pets 2” desperately attempts to capture the magic of the original, it just never quite clicks. This sequel is a muddled mess that will likely keep the attention of its younger audience but will have the adults drifting away.
“Pets 2” picks up with Max (voiced by Patton Oswalt, replacing Louis C.K. for obvious reasons) and Duke (voiced by Eric Stonestreet) settling into their life together with owner Katie (voiced by Ellie Kemper). But just as everything seems to be going as planned, Katie gets married and the couple welcome a child.
This sends Max into a neurotic state, unsure if he can help protect the young boy. When the family takes a trip to the country, Max seeks the help of a wise farm dog named Rooster (voiced by Harrison Ford) to help him overcome his fears.
“Pets 2” crams a couple of other subplots into the 86-minute run time – one involving the hyperactive rabbit Snowball (voiced by Kevin Hart) and his quest to save a tiger from the circus, and the other involving Max’s love interest Gidget (voiced by Jenny Slate) trying to retrieve a lost toy from a pack of cats. While each plot has some moments of humor, it also emphasizes how thin Brian Lynch’s script really is this time.
This is a film that is a lot like Snowball – hyper, all over the place and unable to focus for even a moment. That manic approach may play to younger kids, but after a while even that hyperactiveness wears off.
By taking most of the story out of the home, “Pets 2” loses what made the original so special – the creation of this fully realized animal world that plays off a lot of perceptions of pets’ traits to create some great visual gags and some interesting characters.
It’s a shame, too, because the cast seems up for it. Oswalt proves to be a fine replacement to lead the way, while Ford’s gruffness gets as much as it can out of the material.
The show-stealer, however, remains Hart, who provides this sequel with most of its laughs. For most of “Pets 2,” I found myself wishing for a Snowball spinoff and not the dull sequel that unfolds on the screen.
Without Hart, this could have been really dreadful. As it is, “Pets 2” is just an unnecessary sequel that might be enough to satisfy fans, but it lacks the stuff to make it as charming as the original.