The Secret Life of Pets was a very typical Illumination studios film, one aimed squarely at younger audiences, with very little thought given to older viewers at all. And in truth the story tying together all the short vignettes of ‘what animals do when they’re alone’ just felt like a quickly thrown together thread to hold together some highly entertaining shorts.
I went into The Secret Life of Pets 2 expecting much of the same, but as we got into Max’s story I was genuinely impressed. This was a well thought out and moving story about someone who must learn to refind his confidence and his courage in a world that scares him. He does this along with the help of older sheepdog Rooster. The problem is that this is only one of three different story threads that are happening. Alongside this Pomeranian Gidget is attempting to recover Max’s favourite toy from an apartment full of aggressive cats and rabbit Snowball, while in a Superhero persona, helps rescue a white tiger from a circus.
The Max storyline is certainly the highlight of the film, but the Gidget sections are funny, basically serving as the same kind of vignettes that we saw in the first, and the marketing for this new one. However, it feels as though the majority of the film is taken up with Snowball’s storyline, this is also the story that drives the final act of the film, and it isn’t great. This part is just ridiculous and loses the down to earth and personal storytelling that Max’s arc has.
The voice cast is stuffed full of great comedy talent, with Patton Oswalt doing an excellent job taking over the role of Max, and Harrison Ford joins as Rooster in a perfect piece of casting that Ford excels in. Kevin Hart does his usual schtick as Snowball, and that will really influence how you feel about him, but there’s no denying he works well with Tiffany Haddish who plays Daisy, the Shih Tzu he helps free the white tiger. The rest of the supporting cast does as good a job as in the first film, as you would expect from such a talented group of comedians.
Whilst the first Secret Life of Pets really just followed the general Illumination mould, and this sequel is about par with it in terms of quality, this one just feels so much more frustrating. There was the potential of a really strong and powerful story, but in the end it just gets lost beneath the usual Illumination noise. This is still a movie that kids will most likely enjoy, but it feels like it could have been so much more.