By Troy Ribeiro
Film: “The Secret Life of Pets 2”; Director: Chris Renaud; Voices: Patton Oswalt, Kevin Hart, Eric Stonestreet, Jenny Slate, Tiffany Haddish, Lake Bell, Nick Kroll, Dana Carvey, Ellie Kemper, Chris Renaud, Hannibal Buress, Bobby Moynihan, Harrison Ford; Rating: **1/2
Like usual, “The Secret Life of Pets 2” suffers from a sequel syndrome. Despite being interesting and pleasantly amusing, the spark of its first edition is definitely missing, and that is solely because the narrative literally appears packed with fluff.
The story takes off from the first edition. Max (Patton Oswalt) and Duke (Eric Stonestreet) are now friends and in comfort zone till their owner Katie gets married to Chuck and has a baby, Liam. Everything is fine when Liam comes home, but when Liam, an over-energetic baby, begins to crawl and move about, Max spends most of his days in hiding. Till one fine day, Liam hugs him and says, “I love you Max.”
From that day onwards, the initially wary Max takes to the role of the little one’s protector. Soon the responsibility becomes so stressful for Max that it makes him a nervous wreck. After a visit to the pet therapist, who prescribes a cone-collar for Max, the family takes a vacation to a farm where Max’s fear brings him to the attention of Rooster (Harrison Ford) a Welsh Sheepdog with a tough exterior who resolves to bring Max back to his senses and cure his anxiety.
While Max is away at the farm, his apartment friends and the superhero rabbit, Snowball (Kevin Hart) who is chased by a spunky Pooh, Daisy (Tiffany Haddish), deal with a lost squeeze toy and soon rescues a frightened tiger from the vicious and abusive circus owner, Sergei (Nick Kroll).
All the fun characters from the original film return, though there is definitely more focus on the three main personalities this time around. Sergei as the default antagonist, is stereotyped. There is no complexity to him other than the fact that he looks menacing and he whips the tiger.
What starts of as an impressive fun-filled caper with messages like – change is inevitable and life throws surprises – soon tires itself with the mundane sub-plots. Preferring to remain in its proven safety zone, these sub-plots never really venture outside the lines established by the first adventure.
By mid-point, viewing becomes a bit tedious but the engaging voices of its ace star cast resonate with the right blend of emotions and keeps you glued to the screen.
Patton Oswalt, who had lent his voice for the most notable rat-chef in Disney-Pixar’s “Ratatouille”, replaces Louis C.K. in the role of Max. He provides the same level of energy and youthful exuberance to this character.
Tiffany Haddish as the spunky Daisy and Harrison Ford as the cranky farm dog are the two new voices that add to the charisma of the narrative.
Visually, the film is colourful, packed with eye-pleasing animation and 3D effects. The visuals are accompanied by a soundtrack again composed by Alexandre Desplat with jazz-inflected orchestrations. It is undeniably melodic.
Overall, the film with its moments of high-octave, high-energy fun will surely appeal only to a younger audience.