It wasn’t necessarily the best weekend to open any film that wasn’t Disney’s live-action Aladdin, but The Secret Life of Pets 2 also landed in UK cinemas on Friday and has been enjoying positive reviews.
It’s not difficult to see why. The first film was a thoroughly enjoyable, breakneck romp, but while slowing the pace (a little), this revisit allows for some character development, with the question now less one of ‘what do your animal friends get up to when you’re out’ and more one of their emotional development.
Max, the terrier at the centre of the first film, finds his life turned upside down when his human, Katie, falls in love, marries and has a baby.
Stressing out at the thought of all the bad things that could affect the tot, Max has to find a way through his fear. Fortunately, on a family trip to the countryside, an old, wise sheepdog is on hand.
Meanwhile, Gidgit the Pomeranian and Snowball the rabbit embark on very different rescue missions.
In preparing for her mission, Gidget being taught ‘to cat’ by Chloe is a particular hoot. And no spoilers, but the ‘crazy cat lady’ stuff is very funny too. And of course there has to be a Cone of Shame episode too.
The voice talent is as good as ever – particular nods for Patton Oswalt as Max, Kevin Hart as Snowball, Jenny Slate as Gidgit, Lake Bell as Chloe, Tiffany Haddish as Daisy and Harrison Ford, in his first voice performance, as sheepdog Rooster – a reference to True Grit’s Rooster Cogburn, perhaps?
The bright, glossy Illumination backgrounds are here again, but during a countryside sequence the realism of the mountains and woods is a reminder of the extraordinary quality of background painting in the early Disney era (think Snow White in particular).
Chris Renaud takes the directing helm once again, with a script from Brian Lynch that provides plenty for all the family.
One of the comments I’ve seen about Illumination is that is isn’t Disney/Pixar. I can understand why you’d want to be Disney/Pixar, but there’s not really a lot of point given that Disney/Pixar already exists.
In which case, if you can’t be Disney/Pixar, then be yourself – and that’s exactly what Illumination is doing and to a consistently high standard.