The best part of the first Secret Life of Pets movie was the initial one-off jokes about pets doing dumb and crazy things while their owners were out. Turn that stuff into a series of short films and you'd have a gold mine on your hands... if anyone still watched short films, of course.
Unfortunately, across the course of that first film their antics gradually (and far less interestingly) resolved into a more traditional animated adventure. and this brightly coloured but blandly animated sequel takes its lead from that - which is to say, it skips the secret life stuff entirely for a trio of slight but moderately engaging tales involving all your favourite dimly remembered characters where the stakes couldn’t be lower.
One plotline involves rescuing a tiger cub from a circus, while another focuses on retrieving a toy from an apartment full of cats (this series is generally pro-dog; cats are either aloof or crazy). The main story involves cute dog Max (voiced by Patton Oswalt, replacing Louis CK) - who in a rushed series of events rapidly becomes a hyper-tense helicopter parent after his owner gets married and has a baby - being taken on a family trip to a farm, where working dog Rooster (Harrison Ford) straightens him out by basically showing him that things could be worse.
There's a certain kind of kids movie that assumes kids are happy watching cute figures doing silly things and so long as you throw a bit of that into the mix then the actual story can be pretty much anything. And that "anything" is usually weirdly adult. This is a movie that's basically telling parents they don't need to hover over their kids - not because the kids deserve some fun (kids can definitely get behind that message), but because all that hovering will stress you out. How is being lectured about parenting styles of interest to anyone in a cinema watching the adventures of a cartoon dog?
Weird plotting aside, this is utterly inessential but undeniably cute. There's no real substance here and the comedy is thin at best, but a fast pace and strong voice cast (including Kevin Hart, Jenny Slate and Tiffany Haddish) keeps this ball of fluff on just the right side of entertaining.
- Anthony Morris--> -->