The first “Secret Life of Pets” movie was marketed with silly clips of what animals do when humans aren’t around. They were charming little short films. The first film should’ve been more like that and less like a full movie-length narrative that we’re used to. The second film almost achieves the idea of presenting separate stories and focusing on the laughs, but instead it succumbs to the temptation of tying it altogether.
The “Secret Life of Pets” franchise (I can’t believe we’re calling it a franchise now) is the ultimate electronic babysitter. These movies aren’t so mind-numbingly awful that parents feel bad making their kids watch them, but they’re super colorful and easy to watch.
In the first movie, the main character, a dog named Max (voiced by Patton Oswalt) had to learn how to share his cozy life with Duke (voiced by Eric Stonestreet) a new dog who threatened to takeover the love of Max’s owner.
This time around, Max and Duke are both faced with a change — their human owner, Katie (voiced by Ellie Kemper) who is married and has a child. So there’s even less love to go around now, or so they think.
It is endearing watching Max and Duke warm up Katie’s son, Liam (voiced by Henry Lynch) during the opening montage. Honestly, the kid is a heartwarming, tiny ball of energy. It’s hard not to fall in love with him. It’s too bad that once the story gets going you end up wishing it was more about little Liam and less about everything else.
There are three separate stories going on simultaneously. Max and Duke travel out the country to stay at a relative’s house; Snowball (voiced by Kevin Hart) fancies himself a superhero and attempts to save a white tiger from the circus; and Gidget (voiced by Jenny Slate) agrees to look after Max’s favorite toy while he’s gone only to have it bounce out the window and into the resident crazy cat lady’s apartment.
Each of these stories contains some genuinely funny scenes, but they feel so disconnected from each other. Once you start thinking that they’re going to be content just telling three stories, the movie starts weaving the narratives together. Well, it’s not so much weaving as it is crashing into each other, creating a mess of a story. It’s like the movie just couldn’t live with the fact that it was telling a handful of different tales, and instead opted for ham-fistedly mashing them together.
Kids will like it. It’s exciting, funny and weird in equal measure. There’s nothing great or terrible about it. It exists and children in the audience will be entertained. In the summer that’s about all you can ask for sometimes.