‘That Was The Bad Guy, Right?’
The Secret Life Of Pets is the reason I don’t watch movie trailers anymore. After all the best jokes were stuffed into the trailer for the first one, the rest of that film struggled to match up to the opening 20 minutes. Step forward The Secret Life Of Pets 2. On the one hand, the follow-up is a quirky, upbeat animated comedy that kids will love but the film lacks narrative consistency after the first act and despite some gorgeous visuals and some nicely worked jokes, fails to really stand out alongside the glut of other animated titles out there.
Set some time after the first film, we return to find Max going through the motions with Duke as their owner falls pregnant and their happy family life threatens to be upturned forever. Upon the arrival of little Liam, Pets 2 splits its story up into three distinct narratives – Max dealing with growing up alongside Liam, Snowball and Daisy heading off to save a tiger from a circus and the rest of the supporting characters teaming up to retrieve Max’s favourite toy back from a crazy cat lady’s house. This all comes to a messy conclusion in a third act that sees Max grow as a character while everyone else is just along for the ride as they thwart the circus to get the tiger back.
Visually, Secret Life Of Pets 2 looks great. The colours are vibrant, the character models pop and some of the special effects, including the comic book cutaways for Snowball, really help add some personality to the whole picture. It helps too that the voice acting, on the whole, is very good and the script itself is full of funny skits and segments.
It’s ultimately the story that lets this one down though and the decision to split this into three different narratives gives the film an uneven balance across its 80 minute run time. The plot involving Max feels like it should play centre-stage but instead, the other two stories feel like they’re given more air time and consequently drag the film more than it should. These subplots just don’t very much for the film if I’m honest and I can’t help but feel Pets 2 would have benefited from a more structured, focused story revolving predominantly around Max.
Is it better than the first film? In a way, yes. In other ways, no. The comedy is certainly more spaced out and despite the trailer showing off the best jokes again (which I watched after seeing this film in the cinema), they’re not all crammed into the opening 15 minutes. However, both films struggle after the opening act and unlike the first, the trio of narratives all feel a little messy and light on content, especially when they converge together at the end, where the stock bad guy is introduced and thwarted.
Despite all of this, The Secret Life Of Pets 2 is bound to be a sure-fire hit with the kids. The returning characters, comedic skits and action set pieces will be enough for the little ones to sit through and enjoy, regardless of its structural faults. Narratively though, the film certainly needs work and the messy trio of narratives feel disjointed and offset the pacing for much of the run-time. With so many other choices out there in this category, Pets 2 fails to distinguish itself as anything other than a mediocre sequel; an enjoyable, engaging, lacklustre follow-up to an average, engaging, lacklustre first film.