That cats and dogs are natural enemies is common knowledge to anyone who has ever seen a Warner Brother's cartoon. What may not be as well known is that these household pets have been waging a war for centuries, with the fate of humankind in the balance. Cats & Dogs seeks to expose this secret conflict with many amusing results.
Dog is Man's best friend, so of course the good guys in this film are of the canine variety. Dogs have been keeping their human wards safe for thousands of years from the villians of the film, the cats. Now, one cat in particular is set to finally realize his dream of world domination. That cat, worthy of the title Evil Mastermind, is a white persian furball by the very menacing name of... Mr. Tinkles. Against Mr. Tinkles and his hench-cats are Butch and his team, who are part of a vast network of secret-agent dogs. Joining this team is Lou, a beagle puppy who is mistakenly thrown into the middle of a war he does not yet understand and a family he is warned not to get too attached to.
Cats & Dogs is a digitally enhanced live-action send up of spy movies aimed at audiences who enjoyed Babe (the pig, not the baseball player), but want their talking animals to have a bit more attitude. Attitude is something Cats & Dogs has in abundance, but original humor is harder to come by. Most of the jokes in the movie are beyond cliche, though younger kids may still find them funny.
What I liked best about this movie were not the jokes, but how the characters of Butch and Mr. Tinkles were written. Butch is the war weary veteran, and for the non-human character of a kid's movie I found his depth of personality to be surprisingly well defined. In contrast, Mr. Tinkles is a comic super villain in the broadest sense. His personality and ego are so over the top that just looking at him induces laughter.
The effects used are a mixture of digital composites, animatronic puppets and computer-generated characters. The digital-effects which allow the characters to speak and show facial expressions are very well done and most of the computer-generated effects looked pretty good, but the puppets always looked exactly like puppets. That's okay though, since Cats & Dogs makes up for it with a good dose of family fun. The most amusing moments come from the wide array of secret-agent gear used by the two warring groups. Don't bother wondering how dogs and cats could possibly construct all the spy gizmos they use, since that would only detract from the fun! This movie only wants to be fun, and on that level it succeeds brilliantly.
So, while it isn't as clever as Shrek or Chicken Run, Cats & Dogs is still worth having the six to ten-year-olds see, and even if you're older than ten, the rental price may still be worth your while.
Cats & Dogs
Directed By: Lawrence Guterman
Written By: John Requa, Glenn Ficarra
Starring: Jeff Goldblum, Elizabeth Perkins, Alexander Pollock, and the voices of Alec Baldwin, Toby Maguire, Michael Clark Duncan, Sean Hayes, Joe Pantoliano, Susan Sarandon
Rated: PG (feline and canine warfare / crude humor)