Reviewed by GREG KING
(Warner Bros/Village Roadshow)
Director: Lawrence Guterman
Stars: Jeff Goldblum, Elizabeth Perkins, Alexander Pollock, Miriam Margolyes, voices of Tobey Maguire, Alec Baldwin, Susan Sarandon, Sean Hayes, Joe Pantoliano, Michael Clarke Duncan, Charlton Heston, Jon Lovitz
Running time: 87 minutes.
Cute talking animals are the real stars of this reasonably enjoyable but occasionally clunky special effects driven comedy aimed at holiday audiences.
The traditional enmity between cats and dogs is taken to the ultimate limit in Cats & Dogs. Dogs have often been labeled “man’s best friend”, a tag that has upset the cats, which claim a monopoly on domesticity dating all the way back to ancient Egypt. The stakes are raised though when nutty professor Brody (Jeff Goldblum) is toiling away in his basement laboratory, working at perfecting a formula that will remove certain allergies from dog fur. A secret army of cat terrorists, under the leadership of pampered Persian Mr. Tinkles (voiced by Will And Grace’s Sean Hayes) plan to capture the formula and corrupt it, thus rendering man allergic to dogs, enabling cats to resume their rightful place in the household.
An organisation of covert canine spies plans to subvert the evil scheme, using clever high tech surveillance equipment and gadgetry. The responsibility of protecting the Brody family from the ferocious feline plot falls to eager beagle Lou (voiced by Tobey Maguire), and gruff old watchdog Butch (Alec Baldwin).
Cats & Dogs uses this improbable plot as the springboard for some surprisingly funny slapstick comedy that becomes something of a guilty pleasure. But there are also a number of moments that go wildly over the top and miss the mark, and there are some quite violent moments throughout. The CGI animation that makes the animals talk somehow lacks the sophistication of recent films like Babe, the Dr Dolittle series and even Small Soldiers. However, younger audiences will delight in the animal antics and the visual humour. There are also some nicely droll one-liners sprinkling the film that will strike a chord with adult audiences.
The human performers fare badly here. Goldblum particularly seems a little embarrassed by his role here as the absent minded professor, while Elizabeth Perkins delivers a shrill, one dimensional performance as his fussy wife. A strong supporting cast, including Susan Sarandon, Michael Clarke Duncan, Jon Lovitz and Charlton Heston, lend their voices to the various cats and dogs, and provide the film with much of its warmth and humour.
Not quite the dog it could have easily become, Cats & Dogs is also quite short and doesn’t quite outstay its welcome.