REVIEW: ‘Secret Life of Pets’ sequel is better suited for the small screen

In my review of the 2016 film “Secret Life of Pets,” I said if a person isn’t a pet owner, they can go ahead and skip it. It’s mostly the same old story this time around.

The sequel again follows Max (Patton Oswalt) and Duke (Eric Stonestreet), who live in a New York City Apartment. The two are owned by Katie, who since the first film, has gotten married and has a child. Like the last movie, Max is a worrier and has his share of fears. As a result, he also has several concerns for Katie’s child.

He begins to face his fears, though, when the family takes a trip to a farm. There, Max meets Rooster (Harrison Ford), an older herding dog who helps Max face his fears and not be so-overprotective with Katie’s son. Meanwhile, the other pets back at the apartment where Max lives have adventures of their own.

“Life of Pets 2” is told in a rather strange, episodic way. The synopsis above only covers one of three story threads that take place throughout the picture. While these threads eventually meet and the characters unite for the climax, for the most part, they feel disjointed and far apart.

So much so that every time the film switched to a different story, the tonal change was quite jarring. Each of the three stories also come across as rather random, with no overarching message or arc really connecting them together.

This is especially why the movie is episodic. It comes across more like a few TV show episodes bundled together, instead of a cohesive movie.

It’s also noticeable that the movie went in a radical direction, something its predecessor did, too. In the 2016 picture, there was a whole part where the characters are introduced to vicious animals that live in the sewer. This time around, they come in contact with an evil circus operator who has captured and abuses a tiger.

How these films go from simple stories of what pets do when their owners aren’t home to off-the-rails adventures with these antagonists is beyond me. Most of the more charming, fun aspects come about when the pets are just goofing off in their own neighborhood.

In a way it’s somewhat of a missed opportunity. When Max and Duke are at the farm, some of the animals can talk and some don’t… for some reason. When they do talk they don’t really have much to say either. It could have been a chance to introduce more characters with new voice talents, and the whole thing is kind of wasted.

It’s also unfortunate that the movie seemed to imply a rather detrimental message regarding therapy and anxiety. Summing it up as basically “hey, get over it.”

In the movie’s defense, there are some good, funny moments. A few quips will make an audience crack a smile and there are some relatable gags that can earn laughs. Plus, the over-the-top animation style is beneficial to the more care-free setting.

Overall, for pet owners, this one might be worth a matinee, and as a general family watch, a rental is OK. However, quality-wise compared to other animated features, this one ranks fairly low. 2.5 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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