This movie is better than the first one, although that’s not a ringing endorsement, since the first was rather disappointing. Both movies borrow a lot from Toy Story, but ya know what? In one way, this is the perfect movie for you to bring the kids to this weekend. They’ll love every second of it (the children at the showing I just saw at the Reading Town Square did)…and there’s enough humor for the adults. My wife and I chuckled enough to not feel we wasted our time.
For those that aren’t familiar with the premise, just like with the toys in Toy Story, when the owners are away, the cats will play. Well, all the animals, really. They talk to each other, plot various shenanigans, and as they’d say in Step Brothers: “We’re here to f*** sh** up!”
There are three different storylines going on, and they all involve being brave.
It’s a strong cast of actors providing the voice-overs. Comedic legend Patton Oswalt takes over for Louis C.K., who…well, he was acting like a dog in real life. Oswalt is perfect as Max, a terrier that has a favorite bee toy (like the dog in Best in Show), and isn’t that brave. In a terrific opening segment, we see how he goes from not wanting a new child brought into the family, to adoring the new tyke. It stays fun when he gets tricked into going to the vet and ends up wearing the cone of shame. And nothing scares him more than the big dog he runs into on a farm — Rooster, voiced wonderfully by Harrison Ford (yep, that’s Han Solo’s first foray into animation work).
Ellie Kemper voices Katie, Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family) is the goofy Duke.
Kevin Hart is the rabbit next door, Snowball, who now decides to don a mask and fight crime. Well, rescuing a white tiger from an evil Russian circus ringleader (Nick Kroll). I have no clue why the Russian was dressed like a witch, or why it’s not considering politically incorrect to make him an evil guy with a Russian accent. Don’t the PC police get on folks about these things, or is it only for certain ethnicities? But I digress.
My wife and I agree that every time Kevin Hart opens his mouth on screen (even when he’s not an animated bunny), we crack up.
Comedic actress Jenny Slate plays a Pomeranian named Gidget, who loses the bee toy, and has to go into the scary home of an old cat lady. That scene was a lot of fun.
I might be the only person that noticed how they went from Slate’s scene, into the Paul Simon song Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard…and thinking about how she sang and danced to the Paul Simon song Obvious Child (in the movie of the same name).
Lake Bell, one of the most underrated comedic actresses working today, voices the portly cat Chloe. She’s got the attitude of a passive-aggressive feline down pat (side note: find her movie In a World… about voice-over actors).
A Shih Tzu named Daisy, is voiced by Tiffany Haddish, doing the spunky type of character she’s known for.
Some of the other actors that provided voices, were the brilliant Hannibal Buress (his last live stand-up show in San Diego was incredible).
Former SNL member Bobby Moynihan, rising comedian Pete Holmes (whose show Crashing was brilliant), and I kept laughing when Dana Carvey provided the voice of Pops. Not because the lines were so funny, but because it reminded me of the old guy voice he did in his stand-up.
I remember laughing at a scene with a sarcastic cow making fun of a dog’s behavior, a cat that had too much catnip and zoned out to Jefferson Airplane with a lampshade on her head, and a few other things.
Bring the kids this weekend, and nobody will be disappointed.
2 ½ stars out of 5.