The animated film Secret Life of Pets 2 (PG) opens this weekend, continuing the story of Max, Duke, Gidget and Snowball.
Max is an opinionated dog who hates children. Well, sort of.
His views on kids began to change when his owner, Katie, married a man named Chuck and they had a baby, Liam.
At first, Max wasn’t impressed. Liam slept. He ate. He slept some more. But then Liam began to talk. And then he began to crawl. And then he began to play with Max.
And then Liam said the words that melted Max’s heart.
“I love you Max.”
From then on, everything was different. Max and Liam became friends. They played a lot. They laughed a lot. Most of all, Max became his guard dog.
“He’s perfect,” Max says, “and I’m never going to let anything bad happen to him.”
The animated film Secret Life of Pets 2 (PG) opens this weekend, continuing the story from its 2016 predecessor about Max (Patton Oswalt) and his animal friends, including the dogs Duke (Eric Stonestreet) and Gidget (Jenny Slate), and the rabbit Snowball (Kevin Hart).
The 2016 film Secret Life of Pets showcased the relationship between pets and their owners, while the newest film spotlights the unique and even adorable bond between pets and children.
Secret Life of Pets 2 adds another layer to the story when Max, Duke and their owners (and, of course, Liam) visit friends on a farm, where Max and Duke interact with sassy cows, a kooky turkey and a no-nonsense dog named Rooster (Harrison Ford).
The film is nearly the perfect family-friendly film thanks to an engaging story, the right type of humor and great lessons for parents and kids. It’s a celebration of childhood, parenting and, of course, pets. It’s also better than its predecessor.
The movie includes three primary plots: 1) Max’s trip to the country, 2) Gidget’s search for a lost toy (it belonged to Max), and, 3) Snowball’s attempt to free a tiger cub from an abusive circus owner.
Warning: minor/moderate spoilers!
(Scale key: none, minimal, moderate, extreme)
Minimal. Two spooky-looking cats in a vet’s office say, “We start fires” (It’s played for laughs). Gidget sneaks into an apartment to retrieve Max’s toy; she sees cats in the dark with eerie eyes. We see Snowball dreaming about being a superhero and beating up bad guys. The most disturbing scenes for children may involve the tiger cub being whipped by a cruel owner. It’s not over the top but may trouble children who love animals (He threatens to turn animals into coats if they don’t obey). Wolves chase an animal through the city.
None. Gidget dreams she and Max are married, taking care of his toy, “Busy Bee.” They nearly kiss in her dream (she wags her tongue).
Minimal. P—ed (1). That’s still a bad word in my house. We also hear “stupid,” “idiot,” “turd,” “butt” and “holy cheese and crackers” once each.
Other Positive Elements
Snowball and several animals free the tiger cub. Rooster acts like a bully at the beginning of the film, but we see his heart soften by the movie’s end.
Other Stuff You Might Want To Know
A cat coughs up a hairball. A cat is given catnip and becomes high, and then acts like a human who has smoked marijuana.
Gidget performs a trick that leads a group of cats to think she’s supernatural. “She is the chosen one,” one cat says. They then say, “All hail” the queen.
Children are a blessing: We watch a character, Max, transform from hating children to loving them, simply because he experienced the joy of being around a kid. Psalm 127:3 tells us “children are a gift.” That’s the message, minus the Bible verse.
Parenting is a blessing: We watch Katie and Chuck lovingly care for Liam. But the parenting lessons are best learned through the eyes of Max and Duke, who act like the parents. They protect him. They love him. They see their view of the world transformed. (An exasperated Max says: “Was the world always this dangerous?”) But Max and Duke wouldn’t have it any other way. They are selfless and want what is best for Liam.
Pets are a blessing: Who wouldn’t want Max or Duke in their home?
Enemies can become friends: Rooster and Max don’t get along at the beginning but learn to be good buddies before the credits roll.
Courage is obtainable: With one action, Max learns to be brave.
McDonald’s, CapriSun, Drybar, Furbo, Blue Dog Bakery, FAO Schwarz, Petco, Progressive, Puffs, Tile, Wisdom Panel, Quaker.
The plot. The humor. The message.
It could have been a perfect film without the edgier stuff discussed above.
1. Why do children and pets get along so well? What could adults learn from watching pets and children play?
2. What can parents learn about parenting from Max, Duke and Rooster?
3. What does caring for a pet teach children? What does it teach adults?
4. For children: Why didn’t Max and Rooster get along? What changed?
5. What is different about caring for a pet and caring for a baby?
Entertainment rating: 4 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Rated PG for some action and rude humor.
Photo credit: Illumination