Film review: Pets served cold

"Gladiator." "Lost in Space." "Lesbian Vampire Killers." Some movie titles are so succinct they are also accurate plot synopses. "Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore" is another good example. It’s got cats. It’s got dogs. And they’re both trying to foil Kitty Galore’s evil plans for revenge. Very few viewers will be able to claim to have been misled (or surprised). In short, if talking animal movies are your thing, "Cat's and Dogs 2" is a lot of fun. Otherwise, move along—there’s nothing for you here.

Talking animal movies are an acquired taste. True connoisseurs know that a really good talking animal movie must meet certain standards—production values must be low, the dialogue (especially the jokes) should be as corny as possible, and the plot has to be nonexistent or, at least, incoherently complicated due to a lack of logic. Ambition should be high—sending the animals to space or giving them some kind of athletic ability are both winning strategies—but, overall, effort should remain minimal. And, of course, there should be as many jarringly bad special effects as possible.

So, given the criteria above, how does "Cats & Dogs 2" rate? Quite highly, as it turns out. Not only does this film meet its genre’s requirements, it even goes the extra mile by showcasing its silliness in murky, eye-watering 3-D. And it wins additional points for being a sequel to a movie that was released nine years ago—i.e. before the target audience was born.

As with the original, the premise for "Cats & Dogs 2" is paper-thin but still overly convoluted. Despite being opposing sides in an eternal conflict, the two species are forced to put aside their differences and join together in an effort to thwart the evil Kitty Galore, a hissing, hairless Sphinx cat voiced by Bette Midler, and only one of many unfunny Bond references. Once a fluffy undercover agent for MEOWS—a sort of feline CIA—Galore was attacked by a dog while on assignment in a chemical factory, which ended with the cat plunging into a vat of hair-removal formula. No longer cute, Kitty is thrown out by her human owners and replaced by a dog. The broken-hearted cat turns bitter, and soon becomes obsessed with the idea of revenge.

So far, so "Toy Story 3," but the difference between Pixar’s latest masterpiece and "Cats & Dogs 2" is that this movie feels like it was written by a seven-year-old with an overactive imagination and horrible writing skills, even for his age. The jokes are achingly lame—a frightened dog yelps, "Oh my dog!" while another mutt, sounding like a half-sober Nick Nolte, mutters "I’m too old for this poop"—but that’s part of the fun. This is a film that starts off with Shirley Bassey singing "Get the Party Started" over a James Bond-style title sequence, and ends with the credits rolling adjacent to a continuous stream of animal clips from YouTube. Everything in between is just as daft. Cats and dogs have underground headquarters and utility collars that, like 007’s belts and wristwatches, come equipped with everything from grappling hooks to lasers. They are masters of martial arts and "paw-to-paw" combat techniques. They are capable of building earth-obliterating satellite guns and accurately positioning them in orbit. Where do they get the funding for all of this? How are they trained so well in the art of high-tech espionage? If these are the questions on your mind, then you are clearly missing the point. 

By being a talking animal movie, "Cats & Dogs 2" is automatically exempt from all the factors—such as plot and character development—by which other movies are evaluated. Petty nitpickers desperate to criticize the movie could point out its rubbish special effects, which seem intentionally bad. The real animals bear almost no resemblance to their CGI counterparts who, unfortunately, do all the hang-gliding, scuba-diving, karate-kicks, and pretty much everything except for running across smooth surfaces and jumping through ground-floor windows. But watching an awkward CGI dog wobble across an out-of-focus landscape is all part of the oh-my-god-I-can’t-believe-I’m-watching-this fun. 

So, yes, "Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore" is an awful excuse for a movie and an embarrassment for everyone involved, especially the on-screen human actors. But what makes it so bad is also what makes it such a good example of the genre, and a fine way to spend an afternoon, if you like that kind of thing.

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