CATS & DOGS (2001) 

Jeff Goldblum
Elizabeth Perkins
Alexander Pollock

Alec Baldwin
Tobey Maguire
Sean Hayes
Jon Lovitz
Joe Pantoliano
Susan Sarandon
Michael Clarke Duncan
Charlton Heston

Lawrence Guterman



Time: 102 mins.
Rating: PG
Genre: Comedy/Family

Being a pet owner, of both a cat and a dog, I just couldn't resist this movie. There's just something about pets talking that gets my butt into the theater. I'm glad my animals don't talk, but the idea of it intrigues me to no end. In this family pic, they keep the premise pretty simple, which is probably why it works as well as it does. The story isn't very complicated and the humans are regulated to the back seat, but this idea of a full-scale war between the cats and dogs is filled with humor. Though the animals are cute and the script is decent, it's the special effects that make this movie shine. You have never seen animals behave like this. Here the family pet has turned super agent with high-tech gadgets and fighting moves that would make James Bond jealous. It gets a little old by the end because they're merely ripping off moves we've seen before, but for the most part it's entertaining as hell.

The story is centered on the Brody household, ground zero for the battle of world domination. It seems Dr. Brody (Goldblum), a scientist, is working on a serum that will rid all humans of allergies to dogs. The cats, especially one named Mr. Tinkles, is not about to let the serum see the light of day. Cats once ruled the Earth and he's not about to see himself or his species become second-rate citizens. It's the job of Butch, Sam and Peek to protect the Brody house from the cat attacks. When the agent that was protecting the house as the family pet is catnapped, the agency sends in a new puppy to take over the job. Except this new puppy, a beagle named Lou, really IS a puppy and not the trained agent they were expecting. Lou is thrilled to be part of the excitement and throws himself into his new job with gusto, if not much skill. As Dr. Brody gets closer to success, the attacks on the lab mount. Despite serious setbacks, Mr. Tinkles plan for world domination will not be denied.

"Hold still, I'm trying to crush you!"

Lou is warned by Butch not to get to close to the family if he wants the life of a secret agent. Agents are sent wherever they're needed and don't form attachments with little boys. Of course, Lou can't help wanting the love of Scott (Pollock). What begins as a magical day together, almost ends in a complete disaster...except this is the movies, so they turn a horrific situation, the destruction of the lab by the boy and his puppy, into the miracle that makes the serum finally work. You'd have to be five-years-old not to see this coming, so don't be mad at me for ruining the "surprise." Brody's success, sets the stage for the final confrontation between the cats and the dogs. It's filled with suspense, humor and explosions, just like any other action/comedy, except here the heroes are the neighborhood pets. This section is a little ridiculous and overly-sentimental, but it is a kid movie after all.

The beagle puppy is so cute, I fear there's going to be a rash of little kids wanting one, much like the dalmatians, after they see this movie. Don't oblige them. They are not the friendliest dogs as adults. That being said, Lou will just break your heart wide open with his earnest puppiness. Tobey Maguire creates a resilliant, naive, adorable character as our pint-sized hero. Alec Baldwin gives Butch just the right mix of authority and friendliness. As I said earlier the humans aren't really given much to do, especially Ms. Perkins, but they serve the story well enough. One would think that Goldblum would be perfect as the kooky scientist, but his innate weirdness gave the role a somewhat creepy vibe. Maybe this one was a little too close to home. Sean Hayes and Jon Lovitz play the voices of the two lead cats with great humor and arrogance. Hayes gets a little strident towards the end, but that probably has more to do with the script than his take on it.

If you're looking for a decent summer movie that the whole family can enjoy then CATS & DOGS is one you should seek out. It's not a laugh riot, but the effects and the pacing make this simple story more enjoyable than it should be. They also kept the bodily function humor to a minimum which is a plus in my book. I don't quite think it's worth the price of full admission, but for an afternoon matinee, I felt satisfied.

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