Warner Bros. // 2001 // 87 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // October 29th, 2001
Who will YOU root for?
Ah yes, animals. If there's one thing kids like in their movies (besides Disney cartoons), it's cute, fuzzy-wuzzy animals. The pot is sweetened even more when the they come in the form of talking, wise-cracking animals. The makers of Cats and Dogs have this theme down to a science. The plan: take man's best friend, pit him against his oldest adversary (i.e., cats), and give them all human qualities (including speech, humor and technology). Starring the voice talents of Alec Baldwin (The Shadow, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within), Sean Hayes (TV's Will and Grace), Tobey Maguire (Wonder Boys), Jon Lovitz (National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon 1), Susan Sarandon (The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Dead Man Walking), and Charlton Heston (the NRA), Cats and Dogs claws and scratches its way onto DVD care of Warner Brothers Home Entertainment.
I'll bet you thought that your pet's only worries in life were where to poop and how much kitty chow to eat. Well guess what? Unbeknownst to humans the dogs are living a secret life (complete with military headquarters) while cats are planning on ruling the world!
After beagle pup Lou (Voice of Maguire) is picked up by the Brody family, he finds out that his neighboring dogs actually work for an elite canine team devoted to keeping dogs safe from the evil feline enemy. Led by Butch (Voice of Baldwin), the team was expecting a tough new recruit, but instead ended up with the young, brash Lou.
Why are all these dogs so suspicious of cats? Because they are being led by Mr. Tinkles (voice of Hayes) in a revolt that includes nothing less than world domination! Professor Brody (Jeff Goldblum, Jurassic Park) is close to inventing a cure for dog allergies in people. Mr. Tinkles sees this as a threat to his species (for if no one is allergic to dogs, everyone can have one and cats become obsolete). Bringing together an army of hairballs, including his right hand cat Calico (voice of Lovitz), Mr. Tinkles plans on wiping out the dog population with a serum that will render all humans allergic to dogs...forever!
With the help of some quick canines, Lou, Butch and the rest of the mutts must stop Tinkles before it's too late. They say it's a dog-eat-dog world out there. This time it's going to be dog-eat-cat!
Cats and Dogs will play very well to the under 14 crowd. Much like The Simpsons (but not THAT much), Cats and Dogs includes a few in-jokes that parents will get but kids will completely miss. However, Cats and Dogs is mainly made up of a lot of "hairball" and "butt sniffing" gags that are easily spotted by any age group.
I'm hesitant to say that I didn't enjoy Cats and Dogs because I'm really not the demographic it's trying to hit. I did chuckle at certain sequences and characters (Sean Hayes as Mr. Tinkles is funny, and Jon Lovitz as his sidekick is also humorous). The movie has a slick, polished quality that makes it stand out from most kiddie animal fare (I'm a Michael J. Fox fan and even I couldn't sit through Homeward Bound II). The problem with Cats and Dogs is that while most children will have a ball, most parents will get bored by the end of the first half of the feature.
Cats and Dogs is a reminder that CGI graphics are not always a blessing in disguise (or any form). Was it neat to see the cats and dogs talk in sync with their mouths? For a while, then is became either A.) redundant or B.) obvious that this was the work of trained electronics specialists. In Roger Ebert's review of Cats and Dogs he states that after a while he had a hard time finding the seams to the effects. I beg to differ. For this reviewer it was often painfully obvious where CGI, puppetry, and real life all converged (especially with the Joe Pantoliano voiced "Peek," a small dog that was obviously a stiff moving puppet in many shots). However, on Cats and Dogs' behalf I can say that eventually I started looking for the effects and how they were done. Kids won't try so hard, so it will become a moot point for them.
I did enjoy the ideas behind Cats and Dogs (isn't it obvious that cats would try to overthrow dogs?), and while the human characters (Elizabeth Perkins and Jeff Goldblum) ended up being bland, the animals each had a funny and separate personality. Some voice talents seemed wasted on minor characters (Susan Sarandon and Charlton Heston) while others are inspired (Michael Clarke Duncan as a shaggy operative is very amusing). And what cold hearted cynic about you won't crack a smile when you see Siamese ninja cats fighting a beagle, Matrix-style?
Cats and Dogs must be seen with your brain on pause, or else it will all seem just too silly. I know this is only a fantasy, but my mind still asked many questions, including my biggest head-scratcher -- how can dogs and cats build and operate computers and machinery with only their paws and tails? No matter, for these aren't questions that Cats and Dogs will ever answer (nor does it need to). Instead it's content to show a mercenary cat cough up a secret hairball, open it up and drop hidden "stealth poop" on the carpet to get the meddling canines in trouble with their owners. For just that one scene, it was worth seeing Cats and Dogs.
Cats and Dogs is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Warner has done a very nice job on this transfer, making sure that all aspects of the picture are clear of defects or imperfections. Colors look vibrant and bright with black levels equally solid. Edge enhancement was kept to the bare minimum, and shimmer/digital artifacting was never present. Overall this is a great looking transfer!
Audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 (in both English and French). While the soundtrack for Cats and Dogs may not be hugely aggressive, this track does a nice job of giving both depth and fidelity to many scenes in the film. The end battle sequence involving a boatload of rats and a large, loud machine is especially impressive. All aspects of the dialogue, effects, and John Debney's James Bond-ish music score is clear. Also included on this disc are English, French and Spanish subtitles.
Cats and Dogs has been collared with a few nice supplemental features (ones that parents will get a kick out of more than the kids, I suspect). To start with there is a full length audio commentary by actor Sean Hayes, director Lawrence Gutterman, producer Chris Defaria, and production designer James Bissell. This commentary is not the most exciting track I've ever heard, but it is informative and should shed some light on how the effects were done and why certain sequences were cut or kept.
Two documentaries are included, the first called "HBO First Look: Cats and Dogs." Narrated by actor Sean Hayes (Mr. Tinkles), this 13-minute promo feature includes interviews with cast and crew (Elizabeth Perkins, Jeff Goldblum, Sean Hayes, Tobey Maguire, director Larry Gutterman, et cetera). This documentary takes a look at everything from the plot line to the special effects utilized in the film. I personally found this feature to be interesting (except for the usually funny Sean Hayes, who seems to enjoy quipping and making lame jokes throughout his narration). The second feature, titled "Teaching a New Dog New Tricks," basically feels like a redundant look at the first feature, this time focusing on the CGI effects, puppets, and the training of the animals. Clocking in at around five minutes, this is not quite as good as the first feature, though it's still gives insight into the making of the film and the effects.
Finally there are some storyboard comparisons where a scene from the film follows along to some pencil sketches, a theatrical trailer for Cats and Dogs, and a list of the cast and crew from Cats and Dogs. If you pop Cats and Dogs into your PC computer, you can also find a director's alternate ending (why this wasn't put on the DVD menu is beyond me), some production artwork screen savers, some wallpaper for your computer, some web links and a "Create a Secret Identity For Your Pet" feature that allows you to put your pet's head on characters bodies, or mix and match characters faces and bodies from the film. Needless to say, this feature is more for kids than for adults.
Cats and Dogs can be found for a relatively low price. If you're over the age of about 14 I'd say that will be good for a rental first. If, however, you have screaming children that need to be taken care of for an hour and a half so you can breath easy, by all means pick up this disc at your local movie store. Warner has done very nice work on all aspects of this edition of Cats and Dogs. On a personal notes, I rooted for the dogs...cats drive me up a wall.
Cats and Dogs is free to go on probation.
Review content copyright © 2001 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 2001
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Two Behind-The-Scenes Documentaries: "HOB First Look: Cats and Dogs" and "Teaching a New Dog New Tricks"
* Storyboard Comparisons
* Interactive Trivia Challenge
* Theatrical Trailer
* Audio Commentary by Actor Sean Hayes, Director Lawrence Gutterman, Producer Chris Defaria, and Production Designer James Bissell
* Official Site