This animated follow-up to 2016s surprise smash (which appeared to wisely glean from a Pixar gem with another sequel due out in a couple of weeks) goes the expected route of branching out story and characters to zany action and often droll effect.
Chris Renaud and Brian Lynch are back as director and writer of The Secret Life of Pets 2 with a lively voice cast including Patton Oswalt, Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart and Jenny Slate. Another family friendly diversion is most appealing when nicely working off of canine and feline tropes while not segueing as slickly to cover its hued vivacity. Which means the filmmakers knows what the desired demographic want to see.
Ellie Kemper’s Katie now has a toddler so Max (Oswalt) and Duke (Stonestreet) have plenty of ups and downs. The angst for Max needs to be tempered on a weekend jaunt to a rustic farming enclave courtesy of alpha dog Rooster (a gruff Harrison Ford in his first animated role). Back in Manhattan, ebullient bunny Snowball (Hart) lets his inner superhero self emerge to help a circus tiger (Nick Kroll) with new Shih-Tzu pal Daisy (a plucky Tiffany Haddish). And, a spoiled Gidget (Slate) gets catty instruction from indolent Chloe (Lake Bell) when a toy goes missing.
While the CGI has a bustling, striking quality some of the larger set-pieces may have an unsettling element to them connected to a nondescript heavy rather callous to furry, cuddly sorts, even his own thuggish wolves. A high point occurs on a train as the strands arbitrarily unite. At the point some on-lookers may not have an exhilarated feeling, but there is frenetic enjoyment preceding it. Like an attempt to hide a tiger in a puppy school operated by Pops (Dana Carvey, who’s remembered for his impersonating aplomb, especially back on Saturday Night Live), or breaking into a cat owner’s apartment, not to mention a vertiginous rescue of a missing ewe.
Comedian/actor Oswalt (Young Adult) is a sound replacement as Max with enough shadings to his precarious predicament, while Ford exudes effortless machismo as the imperious Shepherd. The Snowball/Daisy dynamic may not flourish as well as it could have given the talents of Hart and Haddish.
It’s no secret that a watchable Pets 2 will make an impression with anyone who has ever owned or lived with the kind of critters make the unconditional and natural irresistible. From the frenetic pacing the emotions and attitudes may just be defined barely enough to give the toy-like characters their required nourishment. Renaud and co. succeed in reinforcing an appreciation for what folks have and aim to have to make their earthly existence more gratifying. A nice touch that could serve as an inspiration for the growth of the franchise might be the canny YouTube-ready clips during the end credits.