Parents need to know that "The Secret Life of Pets 2" is the sequel to the 2016 animated comedy about what pets do when their humans aren't home. It continues the story of Max (now voiced by Patton Oswalt) as his owner gets married and has a baby. A subplot has Snowball (Kevin Hart) and new dog Daisy (Tiffany Haddish) working together to rescue an abused tiger from a Russian circus that has menacing wolves and a cartoonishly villainous lion tamer. The dark humor and peril are toned down from the original, with more of a shift to slapstick violence that's meant to be funny.
Animals punch and throw knives at one another, and a bad guy is hit by a car, but no one is ever really injured. Language includes "pissed," put-downs ("jerk," "idiot," "stupid," etc.), and potty humor ("turd"). And there's a scene in which a cat is high on catnip. Messages for parents revolve around Max's anxiety about keeping his owner's toddler safe; his helicopter ways are questioned by a dog named Rooster (Harrison Ford), who's more of a let-them-get-hurt-and-learn kind of canine. For kids, though, the main moral of the story is to face and embrace the changes life inevitably brings.
WHAT'S THE STORY?
In "The Secret Life of Pets 2," dog Max (voiced by Patton Oswalt, replacing scandal-ridden comic Louis C.K.) is consumed with worry about protecting his owner's toddler from danger. This leads to a visit to a relative's farm, where Max is challenged to face his fears. Meanwhile, outspoken bunny Snowball (Kevin Hart) believes he's a superhero and joins forces with shih tzu Daisy (Tiffany Haddish) to rescue a tiger named Hu from a cruel circus owner.
IS IT ANY GOOD?
This animated sequel is basically a reworking of "City Slickers," but that's the beauty of making movies for kids: Old stories are all new to them. At the farm, Max – who's full of anxiety about the baby's safety – meets gruff, tough older dog Rooster (Harrison Ford), who herds cattle with ease and isn't having any of Max's over-cautiousness. Parents will get that the film is contrasting different kinds of parenting, but to make it more kid-relatable, Max says that the lesson is about embracing change – even though that message doesn't exactly match up with the story.
Meanwhile, the pets who are left behind get involved in two different rescue missions, which are even lighter on messages and heavier on humor. Pomeranian Gidget (Jenny Slate) must recover a coveted toy from a nest of cats, which means going undercover as a feline – complete with training from the aloof and seditious puss Chloe (Lake Bell). The other team is led by Snowball (Kevin Hart), who, believing he's a superhero because his child owner dresses him as one, is given a mission by a new dog, shih tzu Daisy (Tiffany Haddish). Haddish proves once again that she's the perfect foil to Hart, and their chemistry creates lots of laughs while also showcasing their unique sense of teamwork. People who watched the original "The Secret Life of Pets" generally fell into two camps: those who loved it and those who found it to be average (and maybe a little too scary). This sequel is a slight departure and most likely will result in those camps switching their opinions.
RATING AND CONTENT
Recommended for ages 7 and older
Quality: 3 out of 5
Educational value: 0 out of 5
Positive messages: 3 out of 5
Positive role models: 3 out of 5
Violence and scariness: 3 out of 5
Sexy stuff:1 out of 5
Language: 3 out of 5
Drinking, drugs, and smoking: 2 out of 5
Consumerism:1 out of 5
In theaters: June 7, 2019
Directors: Chris Renaud, Jonathan del Val
Studio: Universal Pictures
Genre: Family and Kids
Run time: 86 minutes
MPAA rating: PG
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