Continuing the story of how the pets of a quiet New York suburb function when their owners aren’t even aware. Max (Oswalt) and Duke (Stonestreet) now have to contend with a toddler in their family apartment, and set off for a family countryside holiday where they meet Rooster (Ford), a Welsh sheepdog who teaches Max some strong life lessons, and in turn learns some himself.
While they are away, Gidget (Slate) and Chloe (Bell) must discover their inner feline when they set out to rescue Max’s favourite chew toy from a cat-infested apartment belonging to the Crazy Cat Lady (Meredith Salenger).
Also, reformed rabbit Snowball (Hart) and Shih Tzu Daisy (Haddish) battle evil circus ringmaster Sergei (Kroll) to save the abused White Tiger Hu from her captivity as a performer…
A synopsis hard to make flow into one because, in all honesty, there is no overarching synopsis. The surprise, but not unexpected sequel, to 2016s $875m grossing original takes a trinity of stories, mashes them together for fill a fun, mad-cap 90mins and then thread them all together at the end for a happy ending.
Totally pointless, really, when this could have been marketed as three DVD mini-movies, but I digress. It’s here to cater to a set target audience and for all its lack of coherent story, the animated adventures of Illumination’s pets with attitude is harmless and fun. With a selection of old familiar pets and some new faces thrown together for three separate adventures (self-discovery, infiltration, search and rescue), director Chris Renaud doesn’t attempt to break new ground in the genre but instead offers a sly mash-up of classic movie themes in a digestible, colourful and funny way for the kiddies.
With Patton Oswalt replacing the shamed Louis C.K as Max in a way that nobody will even question the change in voice, Oswalt actually helps reflect this new era for Max with his semi-depressive state. Another new voice is Tiffany Haddish as Daisy who gives for some great attitude, comedy and fun “banter” with Kevin Hart on their story. However, the appeal for many will be Harrison Ford as Rooster, the gruff, wry and brutally honest Welsh sheepdog. It’s basically just Ford in animated form. And he nails the role perfectly. There is nobody as established and of that mentoring generation in Hollywood that could be as grounded and dry as Ford, but yet you know he’s having a blast in this change of role for him away from galaxy’s far, far away.
There are numerous mad-cap moments including an amusing turkey with a kink for chasing Max, the return of Renaud as Norman the guinea pig and a ‘Mission: Impossible’ meets ‘Babe’ adventure for Chloe and Gidget, discovering her inner feline.
As one coherent film, it doesn’t work. But it doesn’t really try to work. It’s a selection of stories thinly woven together with a selection of established pets in a bright, colourful and beautifully animated world. In the same way as Illumination’s Minions, there are enough visual and audio gags to keep younger viewers chuckling away as there is very little time to rest as we zip from one story to another and one adventure to the next.
It’s a strong sequel and, at times, even better than the original thanks to the welcome variety in story and a certain miser Ford and his Raiders of the Lost Bark. Will we get a third? Probably not, but for a welcome celebration of these box-office smashing pets and what they bring for their target audience, it’ harmless fun.
Directed by: Chris Renaud, Jonathan del Val
Cast: Patton Oswalt, Kevin Hart, Harrison Ford, Tiffany Haddish, Jenny Slate, Lake Bell