The Secret Life of Pets 2 is that rare sequel that's actually funnier than the original. The short runtime is loaded with pet adventures and hijinks. I was quite surprised by the level of plot detail in a film meant for younger children. Three separate storylines weave together for a hilarious, heartfelt conclusion. Returning director Chris Renaud and writer Brian Lynch push the throttle forward with great success. The result is a highly entertaining film with multiple memorable characters.

The Secret Life of Pets 2 picks up with Max (Patton Oswalt) and Duke (Eric Stonestreet) getting a new housemate. In a sweet montage, their owner meets a goofy boyfriend, gets married, and pregnant in short order. Soon baby Liam is crawling around the apartment. At first the kid is an annoyance, but Max falls in love with the tyke and becomes insanely overprotective. Meanwhile, Snowball (Kevin Hart), the fluffy white bunny, has been adopted by a little girl who lives in Max's building. She dresses him up like a superhero, which in turn fuels his dreams of grandeur.

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The plot begins when Max's family takes a vacation to a relative's farm. He entrusts his favorite toy to the Pomeranian, Gidget (Jenny Slate), for safekeeping; who instantly loses it in spectacular fashion. Snowball's heroics are put to the test when he's recruited for a rescue by a bossy Shih Tzu (Tiffany Haddish). On the farm, Max and Duke are mightily impressed by the fearless herding dog, Rooster (Harrison Ford). He isn't putting up with their soft, city dog antics. The three adventures wind back together in an action-packed ending that's absolutely hysterical.

The animators at Illumination know how to push the cute button. They've mastered the art of "awww" elicitation from the gurgling Minions franchise. The Secret Life of Pets 2 grabs you with big, moist eyes, and furball fawning, but smartly knows when to step back. The film is loaded with dialogue, character interactions, and different environments. The filmmakers have a story to tell and didn't just rely on cheap emotional queues to grab the audience. The Secret Life of Pets 2 has a final act that's immensely entertaining. The film ends on a high note and leaves the audience with huge smiles.

The Secret Life of Pets 2 may be Kevin Hart's funniest performance. His high-pitched, irascible shtick is perfect for Snowball, who goes from the antagonist to costumed hero. A third of the film involves Snowball and Daisy the Shih Tzu on their own quest. It's the best part of the film and knockdown funny. Snowball, who's been working on his glutes, gets to show off his superhero game in several side-splitting fight scenes. One in particular almost gave me a seizure from laughing so hard. Snowball steals the show. I have no doubt we'll see the ass-kicking rabbit in his own film.

The Secret Life of Pets 2 isn't trying to deliver a message or preach to children. It's purely an escapist CGI adventure. I've read unfair jabs at the film for its lack of teachable moments. Every kids film doesn't need to hammer in a lesson. It's a movie theater not Sunday school. The Secret Life of Pets 2 is highly recommended for all ages. The film is produced by Illumination and distributed by Universal Pictures.

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Julian Roman at Movieweb
Julian Roman