The Secret Life of Pets 2’s Bright Animation Will Keep Kids Happy
When The Secret Life of Pets became a huge success in 2016, the possibility of a sequel became inevitable. So here we are, with another film on a bunch of pets, lit up by cheery animation, and enough fluff to let the minutes slide.
The original film despite being a riff on Toy Story managed to sail through because it had clever visual gags, and pint-sized honesty. Granted, it didn’t have Pixar’s narrative ambition. But it wooed the young viewers because the comedy did manage to capture palpable emotional truths about animals, and it made the world bright with its sunny disposition.
The focus is still the jack russell terrier Max, who we saw last getting jittery about the arrival of a fellow doggie, Duke (Eric Stonestreet). This time, he’s been voiced by Patton Oswalt, because the disgraced Louis C.K has turned into a clear misfit for a family film.
Max is fretting again, because his human parent Katie has decided to get married, and have a baby. His name is Liam. From jealousy, Max travels quickly into the terrain of fierce protectiveness. Oswalt’s nifty voicework makes Max’s anxious impulses tangible while never losing the genteel touch that makes him so adorable. He is a helicoptering parent, with paws.
For baby Liam, Max turns into a nervous wreck wondering how to protect him from the dangers of the world. A holiday to the countryside sends him on panic mode, but he learns new life lessons from Rooster, a Welsh sheepdog, voiced with a gruff panache you’d expect from our grand old Indian Jones, Harrison Ford.
But that’s not enough plot to keep a movie running. So the script (by returning screenwriter Brian Lynch) keeps cutting back to the city where the white pomeranian Gidget (Jenny Slate) has lost Max’s favourite toy. Now she has to impersonate a cat to retrieve it from the feline lady. She goes to Chloe the cat (Lake Bell) for a crash course in grace, indifference and snarky attitude.
Kevin Hart returns too with his white funny bunny Snowball who in his superhero quest must rescue a tiger cub from a circus villain who keeps a pack of wolves as pets. The new entrant is Tiffany Haddish’s Daisy, a shih tzu who has action chops to match her feisty bark. With Snowball, she raises double trouble for the bad guy.
Despite the film’s reluctance to explore its full potential, director duo Chris Renaud and Jonathan del Val make you smile because the animation is appealing, matching the light-mindedness of the film. It sparkles with comedic gold at multiple spots. You can see how Gidget becomes the queen of the cats, how Chloe teaches her the ways of the felines, or how Snowball dreams of being a superhero (film within the film) or when he becomes a cool rapper.
Max remains the emotional centre of the bumpy series, but his gang of animals know how to spring up a good time while you’re with them. It’s a universe yet to be relaxed in its own game, but there is a certain earnestness in it. And that can never be discounted.
(The writer is a journalist, a screenwriter, and a content developer who believes in the insanity of words, in print or otherwise. He tweets @RanjibMazumder)
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