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6 Degrees Entertainment

'The Secret Life of Pets 2: 4K Ultra HD'
(Kevin Hart, Harrison Ford, Patton Oswalt, Eric Stonestreet, Jenny Slate, et al / 4K Ultra HD + Blu ray + Digital / PG / 2019 / Universal Studios Home Entertainment)

Overview: 'The Secret Life of Pets 2' continues the story of Max (Patton Oswalt), Gidget (Jenny Slate), Snowball (Kevin Hart) and the rest of the gang as they take on new adventures and are pushed to find the courage to become their own heroes.

Explore the emotional lives of our pets - the deep bond between them, the families that love them - and find out what your pets are really doing when you’re not at home.

4K Ultra HD Verdict: Universal Studios Home Entertainment continues to expand their 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray catalog offerings this month with the release of a sequel within their widely-beloved series, 'The Secret Life of Pets 2' in this wondrous 4K home video format on August 27th, 2019.

For my money, this 'The Secret Life of Pets 2: 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital' combo pack's sharpness takes a fairly large step forward from others in their 4K Ultra HD catalog and even comes with HDR (High Dynamic Range) for the complete 4K Ultra HD experience, of course.

So, what we have is 'The Secret Life of Pets 2' presented to us as a two-disc combo pack with a sheet for a Digital HD Copy.

Other stand out points you should know are: Codec: HEVC / H.265; Resolution: Native 4K (2160p); HDR: HDR10; Aspect ratio: 2.35:1; Original aspect ratio: 2.39:1.

Featuring Dolby Vision and HDR10 for brighter, deeper, and way more lifelike colors, as with most all 4K UHD's, everything that we watch features these qualities - but somehow, this film gloriously shines within them all.

Noticeably crisper with the overall clarity receiving an obvious boost here on this release, what's more is that it's enjoyably noticeable. For as well as some new nuances to the somewhat drab palette courtesy of Dolby Vision we also get to witness sudden bright pops of color; like when the one cat is teaching the three smaller dogs (!) how to "act like a cat"! It just all comes more vividly to life now there in the forest. Which is amazing to see, in truth.

Indeed, the picture enjoys the fruits of the added resolution in terms of bringing out the aforementioned extremely fine fur and some of the yellow graded material (notably some scenes, much like the scene where Snowball welcomes back to the table White Thunder - who after a washing machine run in with a red item is now being know as Pink Thunder!) now have a kind of honeyed amber appearance. Which is interesting, and at least a little different from the 1080p Blu-ray accounting.

As for the audio, well we have: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.

. Additionally, the 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack and Blu-ray feature Dolby Atmos® immersive audio mixed specifically for the home, to place and move audio anywhere in the room, including overhead.

Overall, this is a very strong 4K HDR Blu-ray presentation, and, for the most part, the audio track remains fairly similar to its DTS-HD counterpart; with much of the action occupying the surrounds with outstanding directionality and placement where effects flawlessly pan between the sides and rears.

Phew! OK, so, as for the movie itself, while the 'Despicable Me' franchise continues to reign as the commercially successful non-Disney animated franchise, Illumination gives the sequel treatment to their previous projects, including 'The Secret Life of Pets'.

Looking back at the first film, I still find it cute for its interesting premise, colorful animation, catchy musical score and a cast of memorable, side characters. My only issue(s) were that the plot was predictable and Max & Duke, while not intolerable, didn't leave much an impression for me.

However, my expectations began to blossom ever since the marketing for the sequel came out. After months of anticipation, the movie took me by surprise on how much it improved.

The sequel has three stories: 1. After Katie got married and has a son, Max (Patton Oswalt) became overprotective of his new playmate and must learn to overcome his fears. 2. Gidget (Jenny Slate) tries to rescue Max's favorite toy from an apartment room full of cats. 3. Reformed villain Snowball (Kevin Hart) dons a superhero alter-ego and must save a tiger from an abusive circus owner (Nick Kroll).

In hindsight, the plot would sound like a mess and have a lack of focus on which story to follow. In practice, however, the stories intertwine pretty well and does deliver an entertaining and intense climax in the third act.

The plot is one of the major improvements over the original. The stories are more character-driven and sticks more close to the title of the franchise more than Max & Duke's buddy-comedy journey, which took majority of the first.

The comedy is also a set-up from the predecessor where the jokes are more hit than miss. In fact, laughed out more than chuckling a few times in the past.

One of the highlights of any Illumination movie is the animation. Sure, some may argue that the Illumination animation quality and the character designs are too simplistic and doesn't visually stand out comparing to other animation studios.

As an animator myself, I sense that the animators continue using heavy emphasis on shape on the animals' design that are executed well in their movements and humor.

You can tell the animators had fun referencing how the animals move and behave, and animate them to their full potential. As for the setting for New York City, it retains its colorful appeal from the first film.

They also added new scenery to give a different atmosphere from a pet's perspective. It can whether Max & Duke visiting the upstate farmland or Snowball venturing through the carnival fairgrounds. For the latter, it also provided some decent and energized action sequences.

Most of the characters return and they are still likable and funny, thanks to the actors' performances. There are couple of characters worth mentioning.

I'll start off with Max. First, he is now voiced by Patton Oswalt replacing Louis C.K. after exposing his … history! He is, for the most part, a fitting replacement.

But, there are times when his voice can be a little noticeable since both said actors have different pitches and deliveries. Outside his performance, Max goes through a major character development where he and Duke become friends with Katie's son, Liam.

But, Max slowly and progressively becomes brave and less worried. I consider Max to be more likable than he was last time. Snowball went through a major transition from villain to a happily living as a pet while determining to helping others as a superhero (though at times, pretends for fun).

As the for the new characters, they are mostly welcoming additions and provide their own charm. The only exception(s) that I felt weren't interesting enough were Katie's husband Chuck and son Liam.

Again, not bad characters, they didn't leave much of an impression. On Snowball's side of the plot, we have Daisy, a kind-hearted Shih Tzu who idolizes Snowball's alter-ego and wants to be like him.

Hu, the captive white tiger that gives out more personality than words with behaving like a house cat and having a childlike innocence. If I had to pick two of my favorite new additions of the pack, it would be Rooster and Sergei.

Rooster (voiced the first time and remarkably well by Harrison Ford) is the farm dog that acts as Max's mentor on how to overcoming fears. I'd classify Sergei as the most menacing villain in Illumination history for his dark and threatening design and nature, comparing to the comedic, over-the-top villains from other movies.

Overall, 'The Secret of Life of Pets 2' is a major improvement over the first film, thanks to a well-thought out story, appealing animation, good laughs and great performances.

If you are an animal lover, Illumination fan, or have kids, I'd definitely recommend this movie. It'll be fun to sit through and a good appetizer before 'Toy Story 4'.

Anyway, that's that and now for a delve into the mighty special features included here on this great 4K Ultra HD edition.

The first are the Mini-Movies and in this case, up first is "Minion Scouts" where Margo, Agnes and Edith return from Badger Scout camp and three of the Minions are entranced by the girls’ merit badges.

Their own attempt at scout camp results in attracting a bear, eating poison berries and eventually blowing up a dam, creating a massive flood.
But, when they arrive back home, the girls share their badges, encouraging the rest of the Minions to try their hand at scouting.

The other Mini-Movie is "Super Gidget" where Max is kidnapped by an army of squirrels and Super Gidget is the only one who can save him.

It turns out that Max’s captor is a flea with the power of mind control so Gidget must use her pluckiness, strength and smarts to save her one true love!

The four (4) deleted scenes are: "Wake Up" – Max and Duke have a new morning routine with Liam; "Duke Explores the Farm" – Duke has a funny interaction with a goat; "Snowball Karate" – Snowball does his superhero warm up; and "Secret Confessions" – Dogs gather to talk about their deepest secrets.

And so not to give all the goodies away here, and leave you a few to explore for yourselves, the other stand out one is Pops’ Puppy Training School with Kevin Hart where comedian Kevin Hart hilariously shows off his dog training skills!

This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs via 1080p and comes with the aforementioned Special Features of:

Includes 4K UHD, Blu-ray and a digital copy of 'The Secret Life of Pets 2'
The Making of the Mini-Movies
Deleted Scenes
A Tapestry of a Tail - The Making of
How to Draw
Frame by Frame - How to Make a Flip Book
Character Pods
My Buddy and Me
The Further Adventures of Captain Snowball
Pets with Jobs - A Documentary
A Party Fit for a Pet
Relax the Cat: The Secret Life of Pet Massage
Pops' Puppy Training School with Kevin Hart
Production Pets
Pet's Yule Log
Lyric Videos
A Party Fit for a Pet

Amazon Purchase Link