Chris Renaud (“Despicable Me”) directs a sequel to his first popular hit “The Secret Life of Pets.” While this second chapter is not as novel as the first, it remains colorful, eye-grabbing and fun, sure to please the pet lover in all of us. The main amusement of the two films are the quasi-human qualities it gives to every pet, each with distinct and vibrant personalities.
The situations of the urban pet burdened with neurotic predicaments and overwhelmed with humans (almost on the level of a New Yorker cartoon) is what gives these films spirit, and some of the same qualities are in force here, yet not as much as in the previous film.
The usual cast is here, sans Louie C.K. as the Jack Russell, Max (now played by Patton Oswalt).
There are three mini plots in the film. Max takes on the guardian-ship of human boy Liam, while Gidget (Jenny Slate) as a Pomeranian holds on to a totem of a toy in declaration of her love for Max. Meanwhile, Daisy (Tiffany Haddish) as a Shih-Tzu attempts to save a baby white tiger from the clutches of a sadistic circus owner (Nick Kroll).
Daisy enlists the help of the hyper-active bunny Snowball (Kevin Hart).
The comedy doesn’t come from its plot. The real juice is in its cameos. Dana Carvey plays a terrific elderly Bassett Hound while Harrison Ford is superbly non-plussed as a Welsh Sheepdog. The iconic actor does it perfectly, spoofing his hardened persona with one liners that are fresh and laugh-out-loud funny.
While the frenetic action is clearly for younger kids, each character has charm and verve. Every actor is well represented in keeping with their persona, especially Haddish and Hart who feel spontaneous and gleefully glib.
The film has an acute awareness of the empathetic and spiritual bond that humans and pets share as integral parts of a loving family. This quality is underscored at the end. As such, the film is warm and very human, carrying a valuable and important truth.
While the slapstick action is somewhat lacking in surprise, the charm contained in the individual cameos, combined with a wonderful message of symbiosis makes this anticipated sequel fitting summer entertainment that is irrepressibly buoyant.
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