Illumination Animation Studios Continues To Do What They Do Best. Returning For A Second Dose Of Pet Life In “The Secret Life Of Pets 2”. A Worthy Sequel That Is One Of This Years Best Comedies & The Best Animated Film Of The Year So Far.
Illumination knows how to do animation, and they’ve done it again with the continuation of the animated franchise “The Secret Life Of Pets”. The concept of “The Secret Life Of Pets” comes from the minds of director Chris Renaud and screenwriter Brian Lynch, the team behind the “Despicable Me” films and the “Minions” spin-off film.
The first “Secret Life Of Pets” film was a winner from the first time the trailer premiered. I’m sure anyone who has ever had or loved a pet has not wondered what in the heck they do all day when where not at home? The 2016 film explored that idea, delivering great voice acting, animation, music and fresh comedy. In it’s expected follow-up sequel, Renaud takes it to a whole different level while keeping to what worked in the original so well.
In fact, it’s easy to declare that “The Secret Life of Pets 2” could even top the first one in laughs, heart and it’s gorgeous animation. Illumination is on every bit the level as Disney’s Pixar studios. In the sequel, Max is back as our protagonist who has become overwrought because of many real-life dangers posed to “his kid” Liam, the son of Max’s human owners Katie (Ellie Kemper) and Chuck (Pete Holmes). This becomes even more evident when the family takes Max and Duke on a trip to their uncle’s farm, where Max encounters a macho farm dog named Rooster (Harrison Ford), who tries with great restraint to teach Max about how to care for other creatures and find his inner bravery.
Before Max leaves for the country, he asks Gidget to safeguard his favorite squeaky toy Busy Bee. But she lets it fall out a window and bounce inside the apartment of an old Cat Lady (Meredith Salenger). While at the same time Snowball, who has been dreaming of becoming a superhero, is recruited by Daisy to save a white Siberian tiger cub named Hu from a cruel circus owner Sergei (Nick Kroll). Sergei who sounds Russian but looks exactly like the twin brother of the Wicked Witch of the West. He carries a bullwhip and isn’t afraid of committing animal cruelty with the help of his evil pet monkey and a pack of dog-tracking wolves.
A lot of the fun comes from the incredible voice work, as Patton Oswald (“King Of Queens”) provides the voice for the cone of shame wearing lead character Max. He replaces Louis C.K. who is now wearing a cone-of-shame of his own due to his charges of sexual harassment. “Girls Trip” star Tiffany Haddish comes on board as the adorable Shih Tzu Daisy. The great Harrison Ford does his first animated voice work, as a wise and brave Welsh sheepdog named Rooster. Both Haddish and Harrison Ford completely steal the show. Making a return are Kevin Hart as the kung fu fighting bunny Snowball, Jenny Slate as the fluffy Pomeranian Gidget and Lake Bell as the luxurious she is her own boss Chloe the cat. It is amazing how Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish have such strong chemistry even when they are computer generated. This cast is having as much fun as you will.
A big thanks goes to Chris Renaud, as he keeps the action-movie tropes and slapstick comedy coming. We get rapid screwball comedy dialogue that the actors deliver with skill. The biggest credit goes to writer Brian Lynch. When Lynch is on, he is really switched on, and with “The Secret Life Of Pets 2”, he gives us one laugh out loud inducing sequence after another. I mean laugh out loud funny. The zingers really fly as most of them are intended for adults and will go over the heads of the little ones.
From the trailers I was already putting up my guard as the marketing seemed to focus more on Snowball this time around. I thought this was going to be the Snowball show, but thankfully Renaud balances out the story nicely for each characters adventures, giving everyone equal screen time. They are more interested in securing Daisy as the newest member of the squad. Although a good bulk of the odyssey is saved for Max and his exposure to rural ways, encountering a sarcastic cow and a wild turkey who hilariously stalks him.
The film comes with a killer soundtrack that includes Paul Simon’s “Me & Julio Down By The School Yard”, “ZZ Top “La Grange”, Stevie Wonder’s “I Was Made To Love Her” and a few others. The second act of pastel-hued springtime setting is ablaze with color, especially when they are in the big city, where the cherry blossoms look like they are about to burst. One of the very few problems with “The Secret Life of Pets 2” is that it feels like a three episode pilot for a possible TV series sitcom. But “The Secret Life Of Pets 2” is another winner from Chris Melandri’s Illumination studio. Stick around to hear Hart’s rap called “Panda” performed as Snowball. What a way to end the film in a big laugh as if we hadn’t laughed enough. This is one of the best comedies and animated films of the year so far.
GRADE: ★★★★1/2☆ (4.5 out of 5)