The Secret Life of Pets 2 (2019)

or “Trust me, poster. I won’t laugh.”

Director: Chris Renaud

Cast: Patton Oswalt, Kevin Hart, Harrison Ford, Eric Stonestreet, Jenny Slate, Tiffany Haddish, Lake Bell, Nick Kroll, Dana Carvey, Ellie Kemper, Chris Renaud, Hannibal Burress, Bobby Moynihan

Screenplay: Brian Lynch

86 mins. Rated PG for some action and rude humor.

 

I didn’t much care for The Secret Life of Pets. In fact, I felt that the trailer for the film was better than the whole movie. The film had sold itself on the idea that our pets are doing their own crazy thing as soon as their humans left the house, but it never really was about that. The finished product was a standard “new brother” scenario but for dogs. It wasn’t funny, and it wasn’t interesting. Well, I’m here today to report that the sequel…is not much better.

Sometime after the first film, Max (Patton Oswalt, Young Adult, TV’s A.P. Bio) and Duke (Eric Stonestreet, The Loft, TV’s Modern Family) have a good thing going with owner Katie (Ellie Kemper, Bridesmaids, TV’s The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt). That is, until she gets married and has a baby. After the initial frustrations of getting to know the child, Liam, Max sees protection as his new role in the family. The problem is that all the dangerous situations Liam gets into are giving Max some heavy anxiety. When the family goes on a road trip out of town, Max meets Rooster (Harrison Ford, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, Blade Runner 2049), a sheepdog who teaches Max how to deal with his new role. Also, all the other animals get into shenanigans with an illegal white tiger named Hu.

I don’t know that I’ve been more bored in a theater in 2019 than when I was watching The Secret Life of Pets 2, and don’t tell me that it’s a kids movie and my enjoyment doesn’t matter because plenty of films intended for younger audiences are good enough for adults to enjoy, and The Secret Life of Pets 2 is just a slogging bore. To be fair, I would rate it higher than the first film because it at least tries to stick to the central premise that the first film sold us on, being about pets when their owners are away. This one gets closer to that idea before being way too weighed down by all these plot threads that could not keep my interest at all.

The voice cast all does fine work, and I didn’t find it all that tough to adjust to Patton Oswalt as Max after Louis C.K. was let go. I enjoyed Harrison Ford playing a dog version of Harrison Ford. I liked their banter for what it was. This was the plotline the film should have gone with, but there’s this shift in focus when the narrative heads over the white tiger story that all-around did not work for me.

There’s just so many things about the film that feel very cringeworthy, from the way Max’s owner treats him and Duke after having a baby to the really weird way they are played as parents who seemingly have no idea what’s going on with their child and where he is at any given time. Katie is a bad parents and a bad pet owner in the film and it made me really not like any scene with her involved.

Overall, The Secret Life of Pets 2 was slightly better than the first film, but it just didn’t work for me at all. There’s a technical side of things that is well-done in the film, but everything from the plot to the characters just doesn’t land. This is one franchise that doesn’t need a third installment so that these voice actors can go on to better properties.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Happy 20th Birthday!] Trapped in Paradise (1994)

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Director: George Gallo

Cast: Nicolas Cage, Jon Lovitz, Dana Carvey

Screenplay: George Gallo

111 mins. Rated PG-13 for some rude language.

 

Christmas is just around the corner, so I thought it fitting to jump into the Christmas spirit by talking about a classic (at least on Comedy Central) that came to screens twenty years ago today. I’m talking about a little black comedy called Trapped in Paradise. It stars Nicolas Cage (Leaving Las Vegas, Left Behind) as Bill Firpo, the rightest of the three Firpo brothers, and the only one who can mostly ignore his temptations to commit crimes. His brothers Dave (Jon Lovitz, Happiness, Grown Ups 2) and Alvin (Dana Carvey, Wayne’s World, Jack and Jill) cannot ignore theirs, and are being released from prison due to overcrowding. Bill is begged by his paroled brethren to head to Paradise, Pennsylvania to visit the daughter of an incarcerated friend and ask her to visit her dying father. Bill eventually goes along, and for reason, he is most easily convinced to commit a bank robbery. The bank robbery goes somewhat awry, and the boys are now stuck in the town to a sweltering blizzard hitting town. They must survive being trapped in Paradise. See what I did there?

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Nicolas Cage is just terrible here. He yells and screams and Cages everything in sight. His is one of the most unlikable performances in his career. He thankfully gets outshined by Lovitz and Carvey who provide a few laughs and have good chemistry, but altogether become more of a chorus than active members of the family. They provide a hokey commentary on the events going on without really bearing much weight on the story.

And what’s the deal with this bank robbery? Cage’s character Bill spends most of the film trying to keep his brothers from committing petty theft before being easily swayed into robbing a bank? C’MON! Totally unbelievable and uninspired. Prove it to me, unheard of director George Gallo! Prove it!

I enjoyed some of the tertiary characters in this film. They play as caricatures of picturesque small-town people. If the film were set a bit more to the west, I could call it Minnesota Nice to the extreme.

Director Gallo (Middle Men, Double Take) sleeps through this film. I didn’t find myself swept up in any of the events of the film. His screenplay offers far too few laughs and far too much fluff (and this isn’t good fluff, it is crap covered fluff). Even the cast in the film looks like it isn’t having any fun in this “funny Christmas” film. They referred to it as “Trapped in Bullshit” for the entirety of the strained shoot, and it shows here.

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Part of me is drawn to Trapped in Paradise once every couple years, and when I finish it, I’m still not sure why. The film is dark and unfunny, it isn’t beautifully shot or acted, and it isn’t a plot that I can connect to in the slightest. This film exists somewhere above the Hallmark film releases but dreadfully below most anything else.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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