by Michael Elliott
Comments: Purely for the preteen set, this tail-wagging spy movie is hokey but fun.
Directed By: Lawrence Guterman
Starring: Jeff Goldblum, Elizabeth Perkins, Tobey Maguire (voice), Alec Baldwin (voice), Sean Hayes (voice)
Written By: John Requa, Glenn Ficarra
Rated: PG for animal action and humor
Running Time: 1 hr: 30 min.
Scripture References: Numbers 22:22-34, 2 Peter 2:16, Luke 1:37
The tag line for the new movie Cats & Dogs, "Who Will You Root For?", is more than a bit misleading. We aren't into the film too long before the filmmakers choose for us. Sorry cat-lovers. Your side plays the bad guy in this film which shows these long standing "natural enemies" pitted against each other in a high tech and inventive way.
It seems a maniacal Persian cat, who is unfortunately saddled with the less than maniacal name of Mr. Tinkles (voice by Sean Hayes, Will & Grace), is bent on world domination. His takeover plan hinges upon the work of scientist Professor Brody (Jeff Goldblum, Holy Man) who is diligently seeking a cure-all for people allergic to dogs. As this would be a boon to all of doghood, top canine agents are dispatched to secretly protect the Brody household and the allergy formula from those dastardly felines.
When their dog on the inside, the Brody's pet bloodhound, is catnapped, the team works to place another trained agent in the home. Mrs. Brody inadvertently foils the plan by opting instead for Lou, a cute little Beagle pup (voice by Tobey Maguire, Wonder Boys).
This amateur puppy suddenly finds himself on the front lines of action as he fends off ninja cat attacks, exploding bones, and a lethal Russian kitty super spy. There's also the added pressure of becoming man's best friend that is hanging over his scruffy little head.
Helping him out are a team of trained professionals: Butch (voice by Alec Baldwin, Pearl Harbor), a shepherd who is the leader of the pack; Peek (voice by Joe Pantoliano, Memento), a Chinese hairless who just happens to be an electronic wizard; and Sam (voice by Michael Clarke Duncan, The Green Mile), a dopey sheepdog who hums his own spy theme as he darts from bush to bush.
It is a silly little movie, one geared for the younger set (although once again, the filmmakers come close to shooting themselves in the foot by including small doses of humor which many might deem crude or inappropriate for young children, their target audience.) Many of the jokes are corny and there is a lot of CGI slapstick of dogs and cats flying through the air and slamming up against walls and windows.
The puppetry and CGI technology that gives these animals human facial expressions and makes it look like they are speaking English is a source of much of the humor. It should be noted, however, that in some of the more outlandish scenes it is obvious that the critters aren't real. The vocal talent is well cast, especially Tobey Maguire as the young eager-to-please puppy and Alec Baldwin as the gruff and jaded Butch.
To be honest, due to the marketing approach of the film, I expected more of a fair-handed and playful dueling between the species which might have better used the never ending cat-lover vs. dog-lover debate for comedic purposes. Such a film would be enjoyable to see?but that isn't the film that director Lawrence Guterman set out to make. This is more a James Bond flick featuring our four-footed friends.
Giving animals the ability to speak is not something Hollywood dreamed up. Long before Cats and Dogs, Dr. Dolittle, and Mr. Ed, God used this strange phenomenon to shock one of his disobedient prophets into realizing the error of his ways.
Balaam, operating against the will of God, was traveling by ass to meet with Balak, king of Moab. God dispatched an angel to stand in his way. Balaam was so spiritually blind that he didn't see the angel so the angel appeared unto the ass. Every time the ass tried to veer away from the angel, Balaam beat her to force her forward. Finally, God resorted to a most unusual miracle?He had the ass speak directly to Balaam.
"And the Lord opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, "what have I done unto thee, that thou has smitten me these three times?" Numbers 22:28 (KJV)
Sometimes, we become so dense or blind to the truth, that it takes something extraordinary to get our attention. Moral: If an animal ever talks to you?check to see if you might be doing something wrong.