There’s a great TV series lurking in “The Secret Life of Pets 2.”
Divided into three stories, the sequel shows just how diverse a weekly show could be. Max, the lead dog in an apartment building filled with pets, could be the host, shining the spotlight on the others as the weeks went on.
Certainly, the new film has that variety. While Max (voiced by Patton Oswalt), a Jack Russell Terrier, and Duke (Eric Stonestreet), a Newfoundland mix, are off in the country visiting relatives, Gidget (Jenny Slate), a Pomeranian, tries to rescue a white tiger from a fairly evil circus owner. Snowball (Kevin Hart), the rabbit, finds himself in conflict with a feisty monkey – who just happens to belong to Sergei, the circus guy.
Roll it all together and there’s plenty of action, particularly when the pets are on the streets trying to save their friends and thwart Sergei.
On the farm, Max and Duke meet Rooster (voiced by Harrison Ford), who keeps the animals in line and isn’t afraid to dispense a little wisdom. The sheepdog is the country equivalent of Yoda, able to boost Max’s confidence while handling chores around the farm.
The two have a nice moment rescuing a lamb named Cotton and, before long, they’re good buddies enjoying plenty of fresh air.
Directed by Chris Renaud, “Pets 2” doesn’t give Hart a lot to do. While he dominated the first film, he’s basically sidekick to Daisy (Tiffany Haddish), a Shih Tzu who pulls him into the tiger rescue.
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Renaud makes sure there are chase scenes (and moments for Hart to lose his temper) but he doesn’t give anyone a loose leash.
“Pets 2” sticks to its concept and, along the way, finds new laughs and snickers. Max has to deal with life in a cone; Gidget discovers the importance of a pet toy when she loses it and Sergei reminds us of the trouble that exists when humans treat their pets poorly.
While Sergei’s Circus might have been a film in itself (particularly since Nick Kroll does a fine job voicing the baddie), it’s merely just a device to get the city pets out of their comfort zone and into an unknown world.
Renaud shows how traumatized pets can be when Max is taken to the vet for anxiety. There, other animals share his skittishness and open this up to more than “what do pets do while you’re away?”
“Pets 2” is a worthy sequel, filled with performances that still sparkle and a new one from Ford that glistens like the water in a dog bowl.