The Secret Life of Pets 2 is merely okay

(from left) Duke (Eric Stonestreet), Max (Patton Oswalt) and Rooster (Harrison Ford) in Illumination's "The Secret Life of Pets 2," directed by Chris Renaud.

The Secret Life of Pets 2 gets points for replacing a certain cast member but loses it by pushing for an angle dealing with toxic masculinity.

Similar to its predecessor, this film imagines what our pets do while we’re gone during the day.  These animals develop neuroses similar to humans.  Terrier Max (Patton Oswalt) manages to start itching himself from the paranoia over new child Liam.  Max, who lives with mutt Duke (Eric Stonestreet), has an owner, Katie (Ellie Kemper),  get married and have a child.  Life goes on.  The family visits a farm for a few days where the two dogs meet border collie Rooster (Harrison Ford).  I know a border collie when I see one.

While Max is dealing with his own issues, rabbit Snowball (Kevin Hart) thinks he’s a superhero after Molly starts dressing him as such.  This may be cute but manages to take things too far.  A major plot of the film deals with Snowball’s heroics as he joins Shih Tzu Daisy (Tiffany Haddish) to rescue tiger cub, Hu.  Meanwhile, Max leaves Busy Bee with Pomeranian Gidget (Jenny Slate) to take care of while he’s on the farm.  Naturally, she loses his favorite toy inside the home of a cat lady so it’s Chloe (Lake Bell) to the rescue with training.

There’s three different story lines here.  It’s almost like you’re watching a television series where the first two acts see us follow these three different paths.  Everyone comes together during the climactic third act.  Having some sort of a fight on a train is certainly in this year.  I’m not saying which fight is better!

How is this the first animated voice role for Harrison Ford?  He’s absolutely perfect as a voice actor and really lends his persona to border collie Rooster.  I’m not saying that Rooster is Indiana Jones or Han Solo.  One thing about his taking on a voice role is that it’s his own voice.  He’s not coming up with a different voice for the role.

All of that being said, there is one thing that I don’t like about Rooster.  He wants Max to be the alpha and there’s a sense of toxic masculinity here.  There’s a striking difference between the two dogs though.  Rooster is the alpha on the farm while Max is a city dog.  I’ll admit that some of their on-screen antics are cute but the deeper message will go above kids’ heads.  Max doesn’t bully but is very protective of his new child, Liam.  This over-protection is very similar to that of helicopter parenting.  Max has it very bad that it really does affect his daily life.

It’s very bothersome that a children’s movie is using the idea of toxic masculinity to fight off anxiety.  What kind of message are we supposed to be sending to children here?  Listen, I know that people are going to take their children to see The Secret Life of Pets 2 regardless of reviews as it’s among the few films out there for families with small children.  I guess I can take some solace in knowing the film preaches a message that the circus is bad.

The Secret Life of Pets 2 may be an okay film at best.

DIRECTOR:  Chris Renaud
CO-DIRECTOR:  Jonathan Del Val
CAST:  Patton Oswalt, Kevin Hart, Eric Stonestreet, Jenny Slate, Tiffany Haddish, Lake Bell, Nick Kroll, Dana Carvey, Ellie Kemper, Chris Renaud, Hannibal Buress, Bobby Moynihan, and Harrison Ford

Illumination opens The Secret Life of Pets 2 in theaters on June 7, 2019. Grade: 3/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.