by Greg Muskewitz
“Cats & Dogs” is not the kid-flick I was expecting. Surprisingly, kid’s movies have tended to be more reliable than anything else this year, with highly enjoyable fun in “Shrek,” “Spy Kids” and “Atlantis: The Lost Empire.” “Cats & Dogs” is still fun — nowhere near the drool-numbing vapidness of “See Spot Run” (though Michael Clarke Duncan is a connecting link) — but the action/excitement that it hinted at was far more restricted than the unexpected sharp humor.Cats are evil, and dogs — man’s best friend — have long been protecting us from the wicked ploys that cats once ruled over the human race with (uniquely told to us through Egyptian pictorials). When an Old Faithful is catnapped, HQ is supposed to send a newly trained agent, but chance instead sends an energetic, naïve beagle. Conflicted between showing affection to his boy-master (who tends to project his loner-hood and loser-ism onto the pup, hence his dubbing Louser) and helping to save the world (he must protect the boy’s father’s lab, in which an allergy medicine to make people immune to dogs is being cooked up) while dabbling between the two.
If “Cats & Dogs” were to be made ten years ago, it would have been made with what I grew up on: Muppets/puppets. In a sense, there is some of that utilized in the production (more so in the cat fight from “Scary Movie 2”), but when it comes to the elaborations of ninja cats, etc., naturally once the animatronics cannot meet the demands, the filmmakers switch over to computer-generated effects. The results, when action sequences are called for, are entertaining in a minor, though overdone way. While it seemed that the animal-movie genre was crossing over into “The Matrix”-like territory (everything else has, so why not welcome it with open arms?), it was only a flavor of the kibble.
Instead, throughout all of the mishaps and triumphs of the neophyte agent pup, the majority of the enjoyment come from the humor: the creatures taunt at themselves, “You animal!,” or base off of one another, “Scooby Doofus,” or other goofs like “I’m a one-dog army,” and “Son of my mom!” I give credit to the writers John Requa and Glenn Ficarra for the unexpected laughs and chortles, but it’s obvious that their target is for the kids. There is far less appealing to the adult audience as there was in “Shrek” or “Spy Kids” or “Atlantis,” and while the dearth of action doesn’t quite find its balance in the humor, the highly over-manufactured performances of Jeff Goldblum and Elizabeth Perkins don’t do it any more justice. The most amount of relish will be found in that of Jon Lovitz’s hilarious voicing of a chubby, wide-eyed feline.
Anyway, is there any competition in the cat versus dog debate? I thought “Homeward Bound” proved to Sally Field’s Sassy that “dogs rule and cats drool.” Bring it on, I'll say it to any ailurophile!
With the human Alexander Pollock, and the voices of Alec Baldwin, Tobey Maguire, Susan Sarandon, Sean Hayes, Joe Pantoliano and Charlton Heston. Directed by Lawrence Guterman.Final Verdict: B-.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=5350&reviewer=172
originally posted: 07/05/01 14:27:14