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

Long Shot (2019)

Director: Jonathan Levine

Cast: Seth Rogen, Charlize Theron, June Diane Raphael, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Andy Serkis, Bob Odenkirk, Alexander Skarsgard

Screenplay: Dan Sterling, Liz Hannah

125 mins. Rated R for strong sexual content, language throughout and some drug use.

 

Long Shot kind of came out of nowhere. I don’t think anyone expected to be such a crowd-pleaser but reviews have been pretty solid for the film. I finally got a chance to catch it in the theater, and while I don’t it is ground-breaking comedy, it was still quite a chuckler.

Secretary of State Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron, Monster, Atomic Blonde) is planning on running for President when currently-seated President Chambers (Bob Odenkirk, Incredibles 2, TV’s Better Call Saul) decides not to attempt a second-term run. Charlotte’s biggest opportunity heading into the race is that she is considered cold and the public doesn’t connect with her, so when she comes across someone she knew from her youth, recently-out-of-a-job journalist Fred Flarsky (Seth, Rogen, This is the End, Like Father), she takes him on as her speech-writer to help connect her to voters. Then, as they work more and more closely together, they find that they each bring out the best of each other, but is Flarsky a liability for Charlotte’s White House run?

The term I would use to describe the central relationship of Long Shot is cute. I genuinely believed the chemistry between Theron and Rogen, and their scenes together were cute. I think director Jonathan Levine (50/50, Snatched) mined the relationship and the screenplay from Dan Sterling and Liz Hannah for some pretty solid comedy gold. This is a surprisingly good role for Charlize Theron, considering we haven’t seen much from her in a romantic comedy aspect. Yes, there have been films like Young Adult and Tully, but those roles have been much more tied into her dramatic performance than the guffaw-style laughs she goes for here.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a level of drama to Long Shot, but it is clear that the film is not taking itself as seriously as the films I have previously mentioned. It’s taking shots at our current political climate, lampooning and laughing at the current administration with its President Chambers, and Alexander Skarsgard (The Aftermath, TV’s True Blood) is rather silly and playful as the Prime Minister of Canada. Not everything works in the film, and some of the comedy dries up near the end as the film somewhat struggles to find its ending, but the last ten minutes were a fantastic finale that plays into its romantic comedy elements while also remaining somewhat unexpected.

The film also features a scene-stealing performance from the enigmatic and often-unrecognizable Andy Serkis (War for the Planet of the Apes, The Adventures of Tintin) as Peter Wembley, a media mogul who bought the paper that Fred previously worked for and also wants Charlotte on his team, politically-speaking. He doesn’t have a lot of scenes but every time he popped up, I lost it laughing. His performance is the best of the film, and some of the things he does are slimy as can be.

Long Shot limps a bit in its second act. It struggles to find its footing in order to get to a reasonably-satisfying conclusion, but thankfully it finds a great ending to land on, saving a fun romantic comedy that strives to be about more than just romance and comedy. I’ll leave it up to you to decide how successful it is in that respect, but I found it quite funny. I would temper your expectations for all the people saying it’s the best romantic comedy in years, but it works quite well all the same.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

New Trailer for Tully Reunites Jason Reitman, Charlize Theron, and Diablo Cody

I love Jason Reitman. I think he is an incredibly underrated talent. I enjoyed Juno, which he directed based on a screenplay from Diablo Cody. I also enjoyed, although to a lesser extent, Young Adult, a difficult dark comedy that brought in Charlize Theron, and I’m more than a little intrigued by his newest film Tully. A teaser trailer dropped today.

The film is marketing itself as a story about motherhood in 2018, and it seems like an interesting combination of drama and dark wit, something both Reitman and Cody excel at, and while I didn’t laugh at all during the trailer, that isn’t to say that the movie won’t be funny. I just think I need more than a teaser to completely sway me. In fact, Tully, the titular night nanny, isn’t even introduced until the end of the teaser, so all things considered, I need more to go one here.

Am I excited? Moderately. I wasn’t entirely aware of this film’s existence until today, but knowing these three are back again, and that we will hopefully see another comedic turn from the wonderful Ron Livingston is always cause for excitement.

Tully is coming April 20th.

Are you excited for Tully? What did you think of the teaser trailer? Let me know/Drop a comment below.

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

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