Review by David Edwards:
If you’re a dog person, you’ll undoubtedly warm to Cats and Dogs, as
canines are unashamedly man’s best friends in this film. Even if you’re a
cat person, there’s plenty to enjoy in this often-funny but light family
Of course, accepting the basic premise that cats and dogs waging a covert war
for control of mankind’s affections will make this a lot more pleasurable
viewing, as there is nothing here for cynics. The film uses many Disney
conventions in both its structure and its plotline. The film sticks very much to
a tried and true formula, which will no doubt win kids over. But for adults, it
means there are few surprises in the story. The antics of the participants soon
wear thin, enlivened occasionally by the inventive animal characters. But it’s
all been done before, even if not technically as well as this.
Where the film comes into its own is in the blending of live action,
animatronics and CGI animation to create a world in which animals talk, plot and
parachute into homes. The effect is so smooth and seamless that, after a while,
even the most astute observer will have difficulty picking out the live action
stops and the effects start. The extra features on the DVD give some insight
into this, with the Teaching a Dog New Tricks featurette focussing on the
processes which allowed the animals to appear so realistic.
The human actors in the piece, notably Jeff Goldblum and Elizabeth Perkins,
have very confined roles, with Goldblum reprising his now familiar wacky
scientist character for the film. The real fun though comes from the animal
characters. As often seems to be the case in these types of films, the animal
characters are served much better by the script than the human ones. While the
hero of the piece is Lou (voiced by Tobey Maguire), the most consistently
entertaining of these is the arch-villain, Mr Tinkles (voiced by Sean Hayes).
While I may be giving away a bit too much personal information here, fans of
Saturday morning cartoons may remember a quirky little animated series called
Pinky and the Brain. Basically, the show was about a lab rat (The Brain) that
sought to take over the world with the assistance of his slow-witted sidekick (Pinky).
Mr Tinkles is the “live” version of The Brain; albeit by way of Dr
Strangelove. He’s completely and hilariously over-the-top; aided in no small
part by some nifty animatronic work and Hayes’ voice skills.
The DVD features various “hidden” goodies that I suspect are more aimed
at the children’s market. For this not-so-tech-savvy reviewer, finding the
hidden items proved too much of a challenge, I’m afraid. Still, anyone under
the age of 12 should have absolutely no problem with it. The other add-ons
include an HBO “first look” piece that’s frankly rather bland, interesting
storyboard comparisons and the usual theatrical trailers and TV spots. And the
creators of the disc have thoughtfully recognised the cat people/dog people
distinction by allow you to select either a “cat” or “dog” menu.
Although it has many charms, Cats and Dogs is a fairly routine and
occasionally cutesy film squarely aimed at a pre-teen audience. It certainly has
its moments, and the special effects are great, but the middling story and
run-of-the-mill direction will probably make it something of a chore for adults.
On the other hand, kids will undoubtedly love it.
Published March 28, 2002