CATS & DOGS / (2001) ** (out of four)
In "Cats & Dogs" you get a cat and mouse chase movie, except the dog replaces the mouse, and the feline's goal is not just to catch the opponent, but to claim world domination.
That's a pretty weak concept for a bid-budget, special effects action film, especially when the production features the best technology has to offer. The movie uses more than 800 visual effects, and 200 animators, designers, compositors, sculptors, and technicians. With so much going for it, "Cats & Dogs" should have utilized these tools to bring a great story to life. It does breathe life into a plot filled with energy and gusto, but it sure isn't great.
Unbeknownst to humans, cats and dogs have always fought for world domination. A power-hungry Persian cat, Mr. Tinkles (wonderfully voiced by Sean Hayes), has broken a truce between the species. He plans to lead an attack against man's best friend.
Jeff Goldblum stars as Professor Brody, a scientist allergic to dogs. He conducts experiments in the basement of his house, hoping to invent a cure for man's allergic reaction to dogs. Mr. Tinkles designates the Brody home as ground zero for his global battle plan.
Initially, the folks at Warner Bros. considered doing the film as an animated feature, but they finally decided on a combination of live action, cutting-edge technology, complicated puppetry, and computer animation.
The results are splendid. Each animal has their own vivid personality, complete with facial expressions and physical gestures. The special effects do not overwhelm the film. Lawrence Guterman, the film's director, doesn't exploit the amazing special effects, but focuses on creating believable animal characters.
Sadly, however, the sight of a talking cat eventually wears off, and that leaves "Cats & Dogs" with little interest. It might entertain children with high energy action and talking animals, but a movie cannot run on those things alone. Perhaps the film could have worked as a comedy, but it lacks any form of wit or impulse. "Cats & Dogs" thinks its concepts are funny and entertaining enough, which is probably why it puts so little thought into the story.