“The Secret Life of Pets 2” offers up more giddy giggles for the little kiddies, a dog-wise/cat-savvy comedy that aims squarely at the youngest common denominator — and scores.
Parents? Maybe you’ll laugh at the grumpy, seen-it-all shepherd voiced by Harrison Ford, a deadpan counterpoint to all the nonsense on the farm going on around him. Sight gags about toddlers, a fat sneering cat (Lake Bell) giving a Pomeranian (Jenny Slate) lessons on how to act feline, work. There’s a snicker or three or four at the inventive slapstick surrounding the masked crusader bunny, Snowball (Kevin Hart).
For a kids’ cartoon that you recognize right-off wasn’t intended for your demographic, I found this one a pleasant surprise
Three stories are threaded into this sequel. Max the Jack Russell (Patton Oswalt) has to adjust to his owner getting married and having a baby, which proceeds to torment him and Duke (Eric Stonestreet), until that bonding moment when baby’s first word is “Max.”
“This is MY kid…I’m never going to let anything bad happen to him!”
That is tested by life in the Big City, and fraidy cat Max has his moment of truth when they visit a relative’s farm.
Snowball, the bunny who lives in an upstairs apartment, is getting deeper and deeper into the delusion that he’s a super hero. The little girl who takes care of him sees to that, dressing him in mask and crime-fighting suit.
Snowball dreams 2D animated adventures starring himself, in ripped, muscular form.
When a Llasa Apso (Tiffany Hadddish) seeks his help rescuing a white Siberian tiger cub from a cruel Russian circus owner (Nick Kroll), Snowball is on the case, both fists — “Paw and ORDER” — at the ready.
And then there’s the Pom who crushes on Max. He gives Gidget ONE job when he’s off to the farm, guard his favorite toy. When it falls into the clutches of the cats of the cat hoarder downstairs, Gidget turns to Chloe for advice on how to “pass” for a cat.
The most adult gag in all this is a stoned-on-catnip gag set to Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit.” Not exactly edgy, the hoariest of cliches. And yeah, it’s still funny. The most serious material is the animal cruelty of circus training.
The big life lesson? “The first step in not being afraid is ACTING like you’re not afraid.”
Words to the wise from growling old grump Rooster, the farm dog voiced by Ford. His every line is a winner, every gesture drawn into him the sort of heroic, effortless cool that Ford built his career on.
I don’t want to oversell this as the laughs don’t come out of nowhere the way they did in the original film. But children will delight in a toddler who has assumed his family’s dogs are his true role models (eating on all fours, lifting a leg to, you know), and at many of the observations about life with pets — the dog with “I don’t want to go to the VET” eyes, cats affecting a too-cool/too smart to fetch, but delirious in their pursuit of red laser pointers.
Dana Carvey recycles an old “Saturday Night Live” grumpy old man’s voice as a Basset Hound, a cow mockingly impersonates dogs, and on and on.
No great lines, just lots of slapstick (with slapping), pratfalls and an over-the-top martial arts brawl.
Kid stuff, and pretty good at being exactly that.
MPAA Rating: PG for some action and rude humor
Cast: The voices of Patton Oswalt, Jenny Slate, Tiffany Haddish, Kevin Hart, Dana Carvey, Lake Bell and Harrison Ford.
Credits: Directed by Chris Renaud, Jonathan del Val, script by Brian Lynch. A Universal (Illumination) release.
Running time: 1:26