CHICAGO – As a pet owner, I know firsthand that I want an exciting life for my guinea pigs. When I’m off at work, I’d like to think that they throw parties or have some sort of hangouts with other guinea pigs or pets in the area. The alternative being the sad realization that they are stuck in their cage while I’m away, probably bored out of their little minds. “The Secret Life of Pets” franchise continues to brings the fantasy to life, even if the sequel feels too tame.
Let’s get back to the important part: the totally healthy fantasy social life I’ve created for my guinea pigs. Whenever I’m gone I like to imagine they are having fun (mis)adventures that may or may not include acts of superheroism or even crimes. “The Secret Life of Pets 2” continues to scratch that itch, even if this second time around has too many more narrative bugs that need to be worked out. The joy of the film has always come from the individual characters themselves, becoming our gateway into this world, but also the grounding rod. In the first film, they earned our attention with every spot-on mannerism and eccentricity, giving each respective pet the personality we assume each of our pets has. Too bad the charm isn’t as fetching as the first time.
“Minions” and “Puss in Boots” writer Brian Lynch tackles this more complicated sequel alone. Lynch was one of the three writers who wrote the screenplay for the first film, but where the first “Pets” benefitted from a team, “Pets 2” since as a solo attempt. The sequel continues on with the characters we have come to love in the first film, but then goes even further and stacks a few newcomers to the pile. If that wasn’t already enough to disrupt the previously established balance of this wild world, then the numerous divergent storylines did the trick. Lynch makes sure that each side story does eventually meet up into an epic finale, but jumping from one to the other does nothing for the cinematic flow. Our attention ends up split so that any emotional moments are quickly sabotaged by sudden tonal shifts and we inevitably care less about each individual’s struggles. What should have been a breezy walk in the dog park turns more into a dog day afternoon.
“The Secret Life of Pets 2” opened everywhere on June 7th. Featuring Patton Oswalt, Tiffany Haddish, Kevin Hart, Harrison Ford, Jenny Slate, Lake Bell, Nick Kroll, and Dana Carvey. Directed by Chris Renaud and Jonathan del Val. Written by Brian Lynch. Rated “PG”
Photo credit: Universal Pictures