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Movie Review

Max is a lovable terrier with a pretty perfect life. But that life has always been kinda scary, too.

When his beloved owner, Katie, first adopted the oversized hound Duke and dragged him into their humble home, for instance, Max wasn't so sure it was all gonna work out. Duke was so big and Max was so small. But things worked. And then their family was just about perfect.

Except, well, you know Katie, she's always picking up strays. And the next one she found was a big oversized human named Chuck. They met. They married. And, well, then their family was just about perfect.

Except then good-ol' lovable, adorable, wonderful Katie went out and found something else and brought it home. But this little creature was something terrible, something awful, something really scary. Katie called it a … baby.

Max didn't like this baby thing. Not one bit. First it screeched, then it crawled. It yanked at Max's ears and plucked at his eyes. Max just tried to hide. This horrible, ravaging monster was the worst, and it ruined everything about Max's perfect family.

One day, though, this abysmal thing toddled up to Max, put its arms around his cringing terrier neck and whispered, "I wuv you, Max." And like a lightning bolt out of the blue, everything changed.

This is no longer just any fur-yanking kid. Nope, it's … Max's kid! Little Liam isn't so scary anymore. And Max's family is once again perfect, too. Max's life is pretty perfect!

But wait … What about all the scary things outside their perfect family and life? Liam, this lovable bundle of sweetness, is defenseless. I mean, there's no one to protect him except Max. (Well, Katie and Chuck and Duke are all there too, but it's mainly Max.) And Max is so small, while everything that might hurt little dear Liam is so big!

The world is so, so scary.

Positive Elements

This sequel tells Max's story, weaving in two other tales focusing on a little white bunny (Snowball) who wants to be a superhero and a puffy Pomerainian (Gidget) who must take on an apartment full of terrorizing cats. Meanwhile, Max and his family take an extended vacation in the country, visiting an uncle. And the farm can be a pretty big, pretty scary place—for both Max and Liam.

As these interconnected stories slowly converge over the course of the film, they deliver some pretty positive messages. The movie as a whole encourages young viewers to help others, to do the right thing, and to find the courage to face up to the stuff that may seem a bit too big and threatening.

For instance, Max soon meets Rooster, a no nonsense farm dog who spends his days shepherding sheep and generally making sure nothing on the farm gets too far out of whack. Rooster isn't the affirming type. And when talks, he's usually pretty gruff. But Rooster slowly takes on a fatherly role and tries to help Max break out of his fearful ways, by pushing him to step forward to help a farm animal in danger. "The first step of not being afraid is acting like you're not afraid," Rooster tells the quivering terrier, encouraging him to literally go out on a limb and give aid.

Max isn't the only animal who has to step out of his comfort zone. Snowball teams up with a feisty Shih Tzu named Daisy to rescue a young tiger from an abusive Russian circus. Meanwhile Gidget sits under the tutelage of cool cat Chloe, mastering various feline ways in order to retrieve Max's most precious chew toys (which has inadvertently fallen into an apartment filled with seemingly hundreds of cats).

Max and the others eventually overcome their personal anxieties and gain the strength to take life head on. "You never know what life is gonna throw at you," Max opines. "And you have two choices: to run from it or run at it!" "I'm gonna be brave, and I'm gonna help Liam be brave, too," the little dog declares on Liam's first day of preschool, away from home.

Spiritual Content

Max wears a dog cone after his constant fears drive him to nervously scratch himself. Rooster eventually snatches the cone off Max's head in frustration and declares "There, you're healed. Hallelujah!"

Sexual Content

Gidget imagines that she and Max get married and raise a family. And in her imagination they lean in for a licking kiss. Snowball tries to lift a large barbell, declaring that he's going to gain "shredded glutes."

Near the end of the film Snowball's little girl owner changes his look and dresses him up as a princess. He likes it, and the film uses the gag for a quick laugh before he reverts to his regular look.

Violent Content

One story thread involves a mean-spirited Russian circus owner named Sergei, who regularly threatens his animal charges (including a tiger cub and a pack of circus wolves) with bodily harm. He cracks his whip, waves an electrified Taser, kicks animals around and threatens to make some into rugs and coats.

As the story unfolds, Sergei's pet monkey gets into the battling, too. He and Snowball get into a fight that involves thrown knives, torches and clubs, and lots of Three Stooges-like slaps and punches. Circus wolves chase a number of different animals, snapping at them with razor sharp teeth. A long chase scene involving multiple characters on a moving train has moments of peril and suspense.

Sergei is hit by a speeding car (Which is played for laughs). And the driver of the car, an elderly "Cat Lady," then runs him over again for good measure. (Played for more laughs.) And a large collection of cats control that vehicle, smashing cars and other roadside objects as they recklessly careen through New York City.

Max has to save a tottering Liam from the cars, trucks and sidewalk dangers of the big city. And he's compelled to climb out on perilous mountainside tree limbs and leap onto that hurtling train to save others.

Crude or Profane Language

Someone says that a small puppy is "p-ssed."Another character exclaims, "Holy cheese and crackers." Namecalling includes words such as "jerks," "idiot," "stupid" and "suckers." Someone mentions "rat turds."

Drug and Alcohol Content

A large, generally grumpy, cat named Chloe begins acting tipsy after her owner gives her some catnip (off-camera). She slurs her words, falls over sideways and wears a lampshade hat with a goofy, slightly stoned look on her face.

A tiger cub is hit with a knock-out dart and falls over from the drugs effect.

Other Negative Elements

We hear and see a variety of pet toilet-humor gags (in some cases literal gags) in the slapstick mix here—ranging from spit-up hairballs to a dog munching cat litter to repeated quips about puppies pooping and peeing.

Max is taken to a vet for his anxieties, and he encounters a number of psychotic pets who talk of causing harm and starting fires.

Conclusion

You don't have to be an undersized pup or a toddling kid to know that the world can be a threatening place full of threatening stuff. All you have to be is … honest.

And that reality gives The Secret Life of Pets 2 some surprisingly solid kids'-pic heft. Moving moments suggest that courage can grow from a single brave choice. The pic also proclaims that family, friends and loved ones can help you find your place in an ever-changing world, even when change seems overwhelming and anxiety producing. Those are teachable moments—for both kids and their parents.

On the other hand, if you're only interested in a brisk-but-warm-hearted collection of animated slapstick and pet-friendly sight gags, well, it doesn't take much backyard digging to find that here, either.

Of course, this pic isn't all puppy perfection.

A few bits of doggy duty toilet humor will undoubtedly nibble at parental sensibilities like so many errant fleas. Those things could easily have been deposited in some old unused shoe and never missed. But there aren't enough of 'em to drive anyone scratching from the Cineplex.

So, for the most part, kids and adults alike will find their hearts tickled and tugged at by this bouncy sequel. Sorta like a pooch with a favorite chew toy.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Voices of Patton Oswalt as Max; Kevin Hart as Snowball; Harrison Ford as Rooster; Jenny Slate as Gidget; Tiffany Haddish as Daisy; Eric Stonestreet as Duke; Nick Kroll as Sergei; Lake Bell as Chloe

Director

Chris Renaud ( )Jonathan del Val ( )

Distributor

Universal Pictures

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

June 7, 2019

On Video

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Bob Hoose

Content Caution

Kids
Teens
Adults
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