31 July 2010 | RichardSRussell-1
Minimal Credit for TRYING To Put Stuff in for Adults
Cats & Dogs : The Revenge of Kitty Galore (1:22, PG-13, 3-D) — other: talking animals; 3rd string; sequel
I created the "talking animals" subcategory after years of frustration trying to figure out whether to slot things like this under SF, fantasy, or elsewhere. Now no agonizing is required: Anything that involves chatty critters (or cars, babies, vegetables, toys, or other entities that aren't actually capable of speech) just gets dumped here.
There's a general sense that these things tend to be kiddie fare with low production values and even lower IQ expectations. But a review of the 74 such movies since 2000 shows that they aren't much different than SF&F movies in general, coming in with an average rating of 4.92 on my scale of 1-9 (compared to a 4.93 average for the other 474 movies in my database). Some of them have been superb (Bolt, Toy Story 2, Up), and others very good (Charlotte's Web, Finding Nemo, The Golden Compass, a couple of Ice Age movies, Monsters Inc., Ratatouille, Toy Story 3, and Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit).
At the other end of the scale are the movies that give rise to the stereotype: Garfield, Scooby Doo, Space Chimps, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Beverly Hills Chihuahua, VeggieTales, Marmaduke, Rugrats, Furry Vengeance, and 2 wretched excrescences called Yu-Gi-Oh and Tamala 2010.
The original Cats & Dogs (2001) was dead average with a 5 rating. It certainly was not the kind of artistic triumph or blockbuster hit that demanded a sequel, but we got one anyway, this one in (all together now: ooooooo) 3-D, as if that alone justifies its existence. Is it a dog or the cat's meow? (Puns intended; please don't hurt me.)
Well, in the tradition of such things, there are bones thrown (ouch) to the adults, including a lot of smirky allusions to the James Bond oeuvre. 007 fans will recognize that "Kitty Galore" is a pun on Bond girl Pussy Galore (itself a smirking pun on something that will never sneak into a PG movie). There are silhouettes and sultry female vocals under the opening credits. And Bond actor (1973-1985) Roger Moore does one of the voices, for "Tab Lazenby", head of Mousers Enforcing Our World's Safety (MEOWS), reminding old farts like me that the immediate successor to Sean Connery was not Moore but the hapless George Lazenby, about whom nothing has been heard since 1969.
Nor do they stop there. I have to give Writers Ron Friedman and Steve Bencich and Director Brad Peyton credit for working really hard at throwing in a lot of code words, images, and background business designed to appeal to adults. Much of it was pretty clever, including allusions to movies made well before the target audience for this film was even born. But the result is schizophrenic. It's like going to see the Jerry Lewis version of Hamlet and discovering Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud playing Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
In the final analysis, tho, do we go to see a movie just for the puns?*
No, we don't, and regrettably the ostensible surface plot of the movie, tho crammed with substance, snappy dialog, and a certain cockeyed coherence, is pretty insipid. Once again, dogs and cats are portrayed as mortal enemies enslaved to their basic natures, except that this time they're required to *gasp* work together to foil the evil machinations of criminal mastermind Kitty Galore, who intends to broadcast a worldwide dog-whistle tone (from a CD helpfully Sharpied with the legend "The Call of the Wild") that will turn her canine nemeses into snarling menaces, thus bringing their doom upon them as an alarmed humanity wipes them all out. There are more twists and turns as well (as I said, no lack of filling), but it's all pretty much of the same caliber.
The voice cast features many B-list names for no discernible reason and to no audible benefit (except for Bette Midler as Kitty), and the visual cast is a bunch of animals trained to assume unnatural positions and have matchmove artists do strange CGI things with their jaws. This is only fitfully effective.
I saw the film in 3-D. The good news is that the main feature was preceded by "Coyote Falls", a 3-minute roadrunner cartoon in a passable imitation of the grand cel-animation tradition, and it used 3-D to marvelous advantage with Wile E.'s latest Acme acquisition, a bungee cord. The bad news is that the 3-D imaging in the movie itself was sloppy, with numerous cases of dogs having doubled snouts, or a patch of fur seeming to float above the surface of the cat it was nominally attached to. This is a movie that didn't care enuf to send the very best.
I do appreciate the attempt to give the adults something to care about, tho, and it was accomplished without having to distract the kids from the story they came to see, so the overall effect is to get a gentleman's D+ from me.
*Besides, for SF&F fans, they're not even nerd puns.