|Cats & Dogs
dir Lawrence Guterman
scr John Requa, Glenn Ficarra
with Jeff Goldblum, Elizabeth Perkins, Alexander Pollock, Miriam Margolyes
voices Sean Hayes, Tobey Maguire, Alec Baldwin, Jon Lovitz, Joe Pantoliano, Michael Clarke Duncan, Susan Sarandon, Charlton Heston
release US 4.Jul.01; UK 3.Aug.01
This wild comic romp combines live action antics with animation and painstaking animal work. And while not nearly up to the high standard of Babe, it's still good fun.
The premise is that dogs and cats are waging a secret war for supremacy, and the centre of their efforts here is mad Professor Brody (Goldblum), who's working on a formula that would cure people's allergies to dogs, thereby giving canines the leg up, as it were. But the Brody family (frazzled mom Perkins, neglected son Pollock) has adopted a naive puppy named Lou (voiced by Maguire) instead of the top agent they were supposed to get. So it's up to the other agents--veteran Butch (Baldwin), shaggy Sam (Duncan), wiry Peek (Pantoliano) and slinky Ivy (Sarandon)--to help. Meanwhile, the evil cat Mr Tinkles (Hayes) is plotting world domination ... and planning to send in both the ninjas and the Russians.
Continual action and a steady stream of hilarious gags helps paper over the seams. The script isn't as tight as it should have been; the whole thing feels rushed and unfinished. The animals run the entire range from state-of-the-art computer animation to cheesy sock puppetry. Some of it looks great; much looks cheap and cheerful. But who cares when we're having such a good time? The increasingly embarrassing indignities piled on Mr Tinkles are hilarious ... and quickly give away the filmmakers' dog-loving sensibilities.
And if the big climax (in a Christmas tree flocking factory?) is a bit anti-climactic, well it's at least big and loud. And if something isn't as funny or thrilling as you want it to be, just wait a few seconds. Because the film doesn't pause long enough for us to think about its flaws, diving quickly into the next gag or set piece to keep both the adults and kids giggling consistently. In one of the most joyless cinematic summers in recent memory, this bit of silly fluff is more than welcome.