Courtesy of Universal
Building on the goodwill from its previous installment, “The Secret Life of Pets 2” - like its canine stars - seems prone to keep chasing its tail in the same direction hoping for a different result. As before, the film capitalizes on the whole idea of wondering what your pets do when you aren’t home. Returning animals include the lovable pup Max (voiced by Patton Oswalt - replacing Louis CK) his scruffy pal Duke (Eric Stonestreet), the hyper-caffeinated and frizzled poodle Gidget (Jenny Slate); the zen feline Chloe (Lake Bell), and of course the adorable bunny rabbit Snowball (Kevin Hart).
There’s some new plot threads going on in directors Chris Renaud and Jonathan del Val’s follow-up - most notably the addition of a human baby brother for Max, who become inseparable, Snowball is now the leader of a fictional superhero brigade via his nine-year old owners stuffed animals, and Gidget is still obsessed with Max.
Things become hairy once the band of animals become separated and “Secret Life of Pets 2” starts to introduce one too many subplots for your toddler to keep track of. The best of these is where Max and Duke - along with baby brother Liam - arrive on their Uncle’s farm to a slew of new and exotic creatures like cows, sheep, and turkeys. Once there they meet a raspy old timer named Rooster (Harrison Ford in his first animated venture) and in his dry sense of humor attempts to teach the pups a thing or two about facing their fears.
Aside from that, Snowball gets tangled up with a new pupper from down the block (voiced by frequent Hart collaborator Tiffany Haddish) who try to thwart the plans of an evil circus ringleader (that’d be Nick Kroll yelling and screaming as he always does) to save a rare and precious tiger. Oh and I can’t leave out Gidget’s struggle to retrieve Max’s prized chew toy from the clutches of an army of ornery kitties who reside with an old broad who can’t see straight.
Those frenetic subplots only seem included as busy work, constantly shifting between the three before coming together at the end for a climactic showdown that was over before it even began. Don’t get me wrong, “The Secret Life of Pets 2” boasts the same type of colorful and engaging animation from Illumination’s previous efforts, but that cute mentality only gets you so far when it feels like you’re seeing the same tricks and tactics that - like a gross hairball - is chewed up and spit back out again.