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szdaily -> Culture -> 
The Secret Life of Pets 2
    2019-06-05  08:53    Shenzhen Daily

If the sweet, animated 2016 film “The Secret Life of Pets” was mostly for kids, its new sequel might be for another segment of the audience altogether. Amid the cute critter* shenanigans*, this one has plenty of lessons for the parents.

Most of the same gang is back this time: Kevin Hart as the fluffy white bunny Snowball, Eric Stonestreet as the goofy giant Newfoundland, Lake Bell as the laconic cat Chloe and Jenny Slate as the plucky* Pomeranian Gidget. This time, though, our main hero terrier* Max is voiced by Patton Oswalt.

Both films in the franchise deal with a new addition to the family. In the first, it was a new dog that allowed the filmmakers to explore sibling rivalry*. This time, the stranger is a baby, who Max learns to love unconditionally* but which also ups his anxiety levels.

Returning screenwriter Brian Lynch and returning director Chris Renaud, who also voices the guinea pig Norman, have actually concocted three interlocking plots in “The Secret Life of Pets 2.” It’s a wise decision since none are deep enough to carry the film alone, forcing some convoluted stitching together. But they manage it, creating a solid piece of entertainment for all ages, if not a terribly revelatory one.

Even so, the majority of the film is carefully constructed, switching from plot to plot while also incorporating old characters — Dana Carvey’s elderly Basset hound and Hannibal Buress as dachshund Buddy — in an increasingly complex patchwork, fed by a lively soundtrack that includes Stevie Wonder, Jefferson Airplane, Coolio and ZZ Top.

As signs of how well engineered this movie is, a cover* of Bill Withers’ “Lovely Day” is used at the end, a callback to the original song’s appearance in the first film. It also opens with “Empire State of Mind,” an echo of how the first one opened with Taylor Swift’s “Welcome to New York.”

There are some nifty* touches, including a dream sequence in which Snowball fantasizes about being a caped crusader, which creates a comic book sequence inside an animated film. You will marvel at how real the illustrators* have made this world, from rocky cliffs to speeding cars and dazzling eyes. In a neat twist, too, the cat lady becomes the butt of jokes but also this — a heroine.

It all builds to a climax where all three plots converge, some stretched uncomfortably. Max is clearly the emotional center of the film but Snowball’s journey is just weird, starting as a bunny who plays a dress-up superhero, morphing into a real superhero who is revealed to be anything but, before proving he is a superhero, kind of. Like its main three characters, it has learned to be comfortable in its own animated skin.

“The Secret Life of Pets 2” will open in Chinese cinemas on July 5.

(SD-Agencies)

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