“The Secret Life of Pets 2” is disappointingly lackluster

Illumination Entertainment / Universal / Courtesy Photo
A scene from “The Secret Life of Pets 2”.

Decent animated movies are not hard to come by. However, it takes skill to make a great animation. Therefore, though these movies are released frequently, it is not often that audiences get one that has substance. Judging by the trailers,“The Secret Life of Pets 2” looked like it had promise . However, in execution, the movie stumbles with its complexity.

“The Secret Life of Pets 2” tells many interconnected stories. The first is of a terrier named Max (Patton Oswalt) who is trying to cope with the pressure of a toddler in the family. Another is of a dog named Gidget (Jenny Slate,) trying to retrieve Max’s toy after losing it to a group of cats.

The main strength of the film is the vibrant and colorful animation. Even with the cartoony designs of the pets, their movements strongly resembles their common real life counterparts. The creatures are adorable, which is great for a children’s movie.

Despite the great animation, it may be difficult for kids to follow the complicated story. The whole movie is structured like a sitcom episode, where different plot lines are interspersed, thus making it feel more “TV” and less “cinema.” One minute, the movie is occupied with Max’s affection towards the owners’ son and in the next, it cuts back to Gidget making a plan to get back the toy. Though this grants the movie more pace, it also results in the lack of depth.

Illumination Entertainment / Universal / Courtesy Photo
Max the terrier (voiced by Patton Oswalt), Duke (Eric Stonestreet) and Liam (Henry Lynch) in The Secret Life of Pets 2.

Unlike a movie like “Toy Story” which a whole family can enjoy, “The Secret Life of Pets 2” is geared more towards a younger audience. For example, the humor is simplistic, and the best it the best it may do is to garner a smile. It is worth pointing out that even though the majority of the film’s humor is flat, it has its moments. One of the better scenes involves Gidget and a laser pointer.

The villain in the film is extremely one-note. Sergei is the classic “bad guy” that one sees in countless other movies. A good villain can make the audience feel sympathy for their actions or motives. However, in “The Secret Life of Pets 2,” the character feels one dimensional and bland. With a cute bunny like Snowball as the villain in the prequel, Sergei has no chance of beating that kind of novelty.

The movie has a message to young viewers, but it feels almost too heavy-handed. There is almost no subtlety when it comes to “the takeaway.” A great movie can simply let the youngsters figure the lesson out by the plot and not by what the characters tell them. Adult viewers might even roll their eyes because of the way the movie presents its “lesson.”

Though “The Secret Life of Pets 2” is not a bad movie, it is not a great one either. With purpose of entertaining kids, it can deliver as solid as a 90-minute babysitter. For adults who want to look for something both meaningful and has a great tale, the film is not a great choice.