Max the terrier (voice of Patton Oswalt), left, and Duke the mutt (Eric Stonestreet) must get used to a toddler in the family in “The Secret Life of Pets 2.” Illumination Entertainment/Universal Pictures

‘The Secret Life of Pets 2’ is a pretty good dog

All dogs are good dogs. Oh, sure, yours might poop in a shoe from time to time, or snatch a snack from the counter. But overall, the human race would be a lot better if we all strove — doggedly — to be a little more, er, doggish.

“The Secret Life of Pets 2,” an animated film about canines (and other domesticated critters), doesn’t quite live up to the standard set by real-world pooches. Call it a pretty good dog.

Picking up where the original 2016 film left off, this sequel centers on a terrier named Max (Patton Oswalt, doing replacement voice duty after Louis C.K. was dropped from the franchise in the wake of sexual misconduct accusations). Max is still living happily in New York City with his owner, Katie (Ellie Kemper), and his lummox of a best friend Duke (Eric Stonestreet). But then suddenly, in a brief montage, we see everything change: Katie meets a guy, gets married and has a baby, none of which Max likes.

Eventually the baby becomes a toddler, and he and the dogs begin to get along so well that Max feels he must protect the child from everything. The best way to do that is to not let him do anything.

Meanwhile, in another apartment, Snowball the rabbit (Kevin Hart) has come to think of himself as a superhero, thanks to the costume that his owner dresses him in. Gidget (Jenny Slate), a pampered puffball of a Pomeranian, still has a crush on Max.

The main story, such as it is, kicks in when Max and his family take a trip to the country. That’s where Max meets Rooster (Harrison Ford), a cattle dog who actually works for a living and who disdains Max — as much for his life of leisure as his nervous nature. Additional story lines focus on a favorite toy of Max’s that goes missing while he’s away and an attempt by Snowball and his new Shih Tzu pal, Daisy (Tiffany Haddish), to rescue an abused circus tiger from his evil owner (Nick Kroll). We know the circus owner is evil because he dresses in black and has a Russian accent.

See the problem here? There are so many subplots, it’s like herding cats.

Most of the movie’s jokes land solidly, which, ironically, only serves to highlight the other weaknesses of the film. “Pets 2” feels less like a compelling, full-length feature than like three decent short films, each of which is only vaguely related to the other, and all of which exist merely to get from one joke to the next. Expecting us to wait around for another cats-are-jerks moment isn’t the best way to engage with an audience, no matter how valid that point may be.

Despite its humor — and despite some genuinely aww-inspiring moments — “The Secret Life of Pets 2” is kind of forgettable. Rooster sums it up best with this no-nonsense assessment: “Some stuff happened. Now it’s over.”


“The Secret Life of Pets 2”

Grade: C+

Starring the voices of Kevin Hart, Tiffany Haddish and Harrison Ford. Directed by Brian Lynch.

Rated PG for some action and rude humor. At metro theaters. 1 hour, 26 minutes.

Bottom line: Humorous with solid jokes, but ultimately forgettable

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