"The Secret Life of Pets 2"

“The Secret Life of Pets 2” manages to upstage the original, says Daily Times film critic Amanda Greever.

They say one good turn deserves another. And sometimes, that’s quite true. Just look at the evidence:

“Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.” “Spider-Man 2.” “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.” “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.” “Superman II.” “The Godfather II.”

I could go on, but you get my point. And now, one more film can be added to the list with last week’s release of “The Secret Life of Pets 2.”

It’s a sequel to 2016’s “Secret Life of Pets,” a film that managed to perfectly capture the mannerisms and behaviors of our furry friends. Patton Oswalt replaces comedian Louis C.K., whose career couldn’t handle sexual abuse allegations, in the lead role of Max. He and Duke (Eric Stonestreet), have adjusted to each other since their human, Katie (Ellie Kemper), threw them together.

During a brief montage, viewers learn that Max and Duke’s owner, Katie, has married Chuck (Pete Holmes) and started a family with him. The couple’s son, Liam, terrorizes Max as a newborn and infant, then he changes one day, hugs the Jack Russell terrier and tells him he loves him. It flips a switch in Max’s mind, and he becomes a bit overprotective. He begins to live in constant fear that anything from busy streets to gum on light poles to pigeons could harm Liam.

Max’s anxiety becomes so severe that he develops an itch. Katie takes him to the vet, and they give him a dog cone. He seems to be stuck until his family goes on a road trip to a farm owned by one of Chuck’s relatives. Admittedly, the trip doesn’t start so well for him when a turkey chases him.

Welsh sheepdog Rooster (Harrison Ford) runs the farm, and he begins to mentor Max. He encourages him and shows him how to live without fear, or at least not let it control him.

Alongside this main story are several subplots. The better one involves Snowball (Kevin Hart), the former leader of a gang of feral sewer-dwelling animals that were abandoned by humans, who has been rehabilitated by the love of his new owner, a young girl, and imagines himself to be a real superhero — Capt. Snowball — rather than the role she has cast him in for playtime. When he meets Shih Tzu Daisy (Tiffany Haddish), she enlists his help in rescuing a white tiger from an abusive circus owner named Sergei (Nick Kroll).

Another subplot involves white Pomeranian Gidget (Jenny Slate) and Max’s favorite toy, Busy Bee. She loses it in an apartment overrun by cats and must seek the help of a tabby cat, Chloe (Lake Bell). Chloe’s plan to get back Busy Bee involves Gidget learning how to “be a cat,” in addition to a couple of cosmetic enhancements like pink cat ears and a tube sock on her tail.

As I said earlier, “Secret Life of Pets 2” is better than the original. It’s fun, playful and seeing Ford basically play Han Solo as a dog is exactly the droid, er, character I was looking for. It’s Ford’s first voice-over role, and it’s perfect. He couldn’t have chosen better.

Better yet, I got to see my future! The apartment Gidget accidentally lands Busy Bee in is inhabited by a little old lady with at least 25 cats. Give me time, y’all. Give me time.

The beauty of “Secret Life of Pets 2” is the fact there’s something that can appeal to everyone. One of my delights of watching the first film was recognizing my own fur-baby, Mia, in Chloe’s actions. The self-centeredness, the judgment in her eyes and the fact I know she adores me, even if she’d rather poop in my shoe than admit it.

The sequel captures these moments, as well, especially when Chloe is teaching how to be a cat. How many of us cat owners haven’t had our drinks knocked over, bums shoved in our faces or our keyboards walked on?

The film appeals to children, as I heard the kiddos in the theater with me laughing time and time again. But, there’s something that also appeals to adults. We understand the connection Max feels toward his human’s child. All of us worry about those we love every day, and it can get out of hand from time to time.

The storyline with the white tiger is a bit adult, as well. Sergei isn’t fun to watch. He’s abusive toward the tiger and his own dogs, threatening their lives and brandishing his whips, as well as a Taser-like stick. Honestly, those moments might be less startling to children than they are adults, as I winced with each flick of the whip and felt my heart hurt at each of the tiger’s flinches.

Haddish is a delightful addition, as are other bits the writers have thrown in. All in all, “The Secret Life of Pets 2” is not only a delightful companion to the original film, but it manages to be even more enjoyable.

Amanda Greever is a former editor, designer and writer at The Daily Times. She now works in public relations. Contact her at amandagreever@gmail.com.

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