Warner Bros. // 2001 // 87 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // July 20th, 2010
Lou: "I'm on to you, kitty, and you're in big trouble!"
Russian Blue: "I think not, baby puppy. It is you who is in trouble!"
Cats & Dogs delivers exactly what you would expect -- a "not so secret" fantastic war between felines and canines. The filmmakers use a variety of techniques including real animals, puppets, and full out CGI to create a world where our pets have the technology to wage battle over secret formulas and the fate of the world. They are furry spies who wrangle for the destiny of mankind, while pretending to be our run-of-the-mill four-legged friends. Of course, this is simply good furry fun, and the Blu-ray is out just in time for a 3D sequel called Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore. So is it worth a few bones or simply more kitty litter?
An eccentric professor (Jeff Goldblum, The Fly) is on the verge of discovering a cure for human allergies to dogs. And so a group of vicious cats "catnap" his faithful bloodhound, and begin to reverse engineer the formula; an evil plot to disrupt the balance away from "man's best friend." Now it's up to the new puppy Lou (Tobey Maguire, Spider-Man) to take on the nefarious Mr. Tinkles (Sean Hayes, Will and Grace), but Lou first has to bond with his human owner, a boy not so keen on having a new dog.
The critics didn't like this one much when it hit theaters in 2001, and it was quickly labeled as a film that would entertain kids but not more sophisticated audiences. Certainly as a spy spoof Cats & Dogs seems a bit lazy outside of the fun idea of tech gadgets being used by pets. Despite a high concept, it does play out as simple family comedy without much to offend or amaze. Back in the day, these special effects were considered pretty good, although now the CGI is easily recognizable as are the animatronic versions of the puppies and kitties. But still, I laugh every time I see a team of parachuting ninja Siamese cats or a kung fu Russian blue kitten taking out a beagle puppy. Despite any shortcomings, you can't deny the magic of cute overload. All they have to do is tilt their head and look at you, and you can't help but forget the thin family friendly plot.
I have two dogs and a cat who I watched the film with; they seem to like films and often weigh in with their opinions. Given the subject matter, this seemed like a natural for their couch critic skills. The dogs were pleased with the heroic way they were shown, and how the canines were always the good guys. Voice actors such as Alec Baldwin (30 Rock) and Susan Sarandon (Thelma and Louise) give them a dramatic gravitas that appealed to the dog sense of nobility. The cat found it slightly annoying that comic actors such as John Lovitz (Saturday Night Live) and Sean Hayes (Will and Grace) were chosen for the felines. There were no regal felines and hardly any girls. She protested the fact every kitten in the film was a vicious evil spy, although she did appreciate they were skilled fighters. Sean Hayes did win the pet vote as "best actor" who seemed to be having the most fun voicing Mr. Tinkles. All three furry friends agreed the film would appeal more to those who loved dogs, and found the humans the least convincing in the cast.
In terms of an upgrade, this 1.85:1 VC-1/1080p Blu-ray transfer nearly goes too far in making the image clear and candy coated colorful, bordering on the animated with its bright hues and CGI sequences. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio tries to make the war being waged sound that much more dramatic, but it ultimately comes across as forced; the seams between its on set action/dialogue, animal ADR, and post-production Foley becoming evident.
In terms of bonus materials, there's nothing new here that was not on the previous DVD release. A director/producer commentary including input from actor Sean Hayes is ported over, and it's a pretty good listen. The production team discusses how certain effects were achieved and also dish about sequences that almost got cut or were in fact removed. There are also five featurettes including an HBO First Look episode hosted by Sean Hayes. Next up is a five minute look at how they got the talking parts done through animal training, puppets, and CGI. There is a funny reel with Mr. Tinkles "auditioning" for other famous film roles. "Dogs Rule" is a montage of clips that showcase the canines doing their stuff. "Mr. Tinkles Speech" is an alternate take of the big climax for the cat villain. Also included are a couple of concept sketches and storyboard comparisons all revolving around the ninja cat sequence.
Ironically the DVD release had more content and some cute touches missing in the new high definition edition. I remember it actually having more flair with the ability for you to "pick a side" which would theme all the menus as cat-centric or dog-designed. Also missing are DVD-ROM features which included a Quicktime movie with an alternate ending giving the cats a bit more credit and room for a sequel. There were also some charming screen savers and computer content not accounted for here.
Cats & Dogs may be colorful enough to warrant and upgrade to high definition, but the audio and video try too hard, and there are no extra bones to make it more appealing. The film itself is geared more towards dog lovers, but animal fans will find themselves pleased. It's definitely not a sophisticated family comedy, but slides by on its cute factor.
Guilty of perpetuating a sensless war of violence among our pets. Bring on
more spy puppies and ninja kittens!
Review content copyright © 2010 Brett Cullum; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 2001
MPAA Rating: Rated PG