Cats and Dogs

Somewhere very early in the production of Cats and Dogs, the filmmakers decided to forgo animation and go for live animals. In the end, a mixture of real animals, puppets, and computer animation combined to bring to life the dogs and cats in the movie. In the world of Cats and Dogs, these animals are fighting a never-ending battle for control of the earth. Animals can speak, but humans do not know this. Professor Brody (Jeff Goldblum, Auggie Rose, One of the Hollywood Ten) is close to perfecting an antidote for people allergic to dogs. The cats do not want him to succeed, since he can tip the scales in their war. Through a mix-up, Lou (voiced by Tobey Maguire, The Cider House Rules, Ride With the Devil) arrives to help protect Brody's formula. The dogs that are to work with Lou think he is a secret agent, when in actuality he is only a puppy.

As a family movie, Cats and Dogs is not that memorable. Watching people and animals endure violence in cartoons is okay, but there is something inherently unsettling about watching some of the acts these animals endure. There are only a couple of sequences like this. Other sequences involving parachuting cat ninjas can be quite clever. Mr. Tinkles (voiced by Sean Hayes, Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss, NBC's Will and Grace) is a maniacal Persian cat bent on stopping Brody from developing a cure. He is the one who is constantly sending cats against Lou. Butch (voiced by Alec Baldwin, Pearl Harbor, State & Main), a wizened agent, is there to help train Lou on the fly. Lou, who wants adventure and excitement, must eventually decide between a dashing life as a secret agent, or a familial life with the Brody family (gee, what will he pick?)

Aside from some of the Mr. Tinkles puppets, director Lawrence Guterman does a nice job meshing together real and fake animals. He overdoes some of the eye expressions, but the mouths sync up well with the dialogue. Still, Cats and Dogs falls somewhere between the wonderful imagination of Babe and the wacky toilet humor of Doctor Dolittle. The story, by John Requa and Glenn Ficarra is not new. Kids WB did a great job with similar stories in their short-lived Pinky and the Brain series, about lab mouse with aspirations of global domination. Compared to the Brain, Mr. Tinkles is a pale imitation. They also seem to run out of ideas near the end, going for broke with big, expansive action sequences that serve no real purpose. There are some enjoyable one-liners in the movie (at one point Butch proclaims "son of my mother!") but most everything else is innocuous. None of the characters have enough personality to make a lasting impression. At worst, Cats and Dogs is another so-so attempt at the family market. At best, it is a viable alternative to even worse films that claim to be family friendly. There are a couple good moments in the movie, but it will probably leave most people indifferent.

Haro Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 33 minutes, Rated PG for animal action and humor.

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