View Date: July 4th, 2001
Directed by: Lawrence Guterman
Official Site: Cats and Dogs
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Cats and Dogs
Cats and Dogs is well intended, yet disastrously executed attempt to entertain young minds while feeding the curiosity of adult ones. That which we do not know about or understand has always fascinated the masses. From the grand scheme of things like the meaning of life, or the existence of a higher being, all the way down to the communication between, and explanation of, the actions of pets. This attempt fails miserably, showing that talking animal movies work best, oddly enough, when we cannot see the mouths moving, but can only hear their thoughts and see their natural, not forced, fake and ludicrous actions. The humor works to cause only relating smirks, gentle guffaws and nudges, but never belly laughs. The pets, intended to be cute, are, like Cindy Crawford and Fabio, nice to look at, until they open their mouth. The overall combination of these failed effects, a forced and boring script, some misguided movie references, an embarrassing performance from Goldblum and a lack of anything visually stimulating, leaves very left when the fur finishes flying.
The story has it roots in the ongoing battle between dog owners and cat owners as to superiority of their pets. Dog owners consider their pets more loyal, while cat owners usually consider theirs smarter and more durable. The film tries to tackle the premise of the existence of a secret world below that of the one we know. In this world, cats are conniving, sneaky and domination minded, while dogs are the loyal defenders of home and freedom. Goldblum’s family adopts a cute little puppy after there loyal pet mysteriously disappears. Butch, a grizzled veteran and Ivy, a mysterious, yet intelligent (if that word can be used in this film) and sultry female presence. They befriend the puppy, Lou, and help him in adapting to his new family while showing him the secret world that never knew existed. Both are secret members of the canine spy patrol. Their mission, whether the audience chooses to accept or believe it, is to stop a feline dictator known as Tinkles from taking over the world. The remainder of the film becomes the battles, some sacrilegious movie references and some horrible effects laden sequences meant to duplicate reality and explain some the pet’s mysterious actions. I’m sure there was some idea meeting where someone, hopefully unemployed now, pitched the idea of having pets communicate with other and live a secret world that we humans don’t notice. The problem lay in the fact that it’s cute and funny the first time, but after repetition, becomes tedious. Quite simply, it is insulting to the adults who can tortuously see everything coming, and boring to children, who may fidget or even yawn at the absurdity of some of the “real” scenes involving the pets. Films like Stuart Little and Homeward Bound showed that the interaction of humans and pets can be dually cute, intelligent, entertaining and sharply, but realistically created. This film barely deserves mention above those, and almost makes Look Who’s Talking Now appear nearly brilliant in its execution. These vocal and visual effects are cheap and amateurish in their delivery. The continuously flat humor doesn’t help either, as Goldblum’s actions get dumber and dumber as they progress, and the dialogue becomes more and more painful as the story lumbers towards a conclusion that cannot come soon enough.
In films where voiceovers are used, there is usually a modicum of curiosity to determine who is behind them. Here however, the only wonderment comes from the question of who did Baldwin, Sarandon, Duncan, Hayes, Lovitz and Maguire lose bets to, in order to be involved in this project. None of them ever have a dose of energy or character in their voices, seemingly trying to get this mess over with, and progressively dragging themselves down amidst the butt-sniffing, toilet-drinking, cross-dressing and plain old unfunny clichés.Ultimately, Cats and Dogs is a step backwards in Hollywood’s attempt to balance the curious nature of humanity with the universal cute appeal of cuddly animals. The story may have been more interesting had some bit of intelligence been infused in between a simple, not insulting, one note plot that falls apart quicker than an ex-Seinfeld cast members sitcom career. Shrek and Atlantis have proven that there is indeed new ground to be discovered in the area of animation and children’s movies that have a broader appeal. Cats and Dogs serves as the antithesis of how to capitalize on the growing crossover family film genre and how not to explore an unknown aspect of nature that exists in most people’s minds. Gutterman barks up all the wrong trees, and in the end, should have left this idea on the paper. ($ out of $$$$$)
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