Recently a reader asked me via FormSpring whether or not I’ve ever changed my mind about a movie. Thrilled for the opportunity to explain that yes, I indeed have reversed opinions since over the years my attitude and knowledge has evolved as I’ve experienced more out of life, it was only shortly after I answered this question that I found myself faced with another reevaluation of opinion when a trip to Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore made me reconsider my generally negative view of 3D.
Although I don’t dislike the process in theory since a filmmaker should employ whatever tools are at their disposal to execute their vision, Hollywood’s overreliance on 3D as a gimmick is as dangerous as the usage of too much CGI or green screen technology that at times serves to dazzle us with spectacle without placing the same emphasis on story and character development.
Needless to say it’s important to find the right balance between special effects and a compelling screenplay but somehow, against all odds and quite surprisingly in a summer that most assumed would belong to Pixar, Warner Brothers throws viewers for a complete loop with a truly imaginative, visually exciting and downright funny family film that’s all the more admirable given the fact that it’s a sequel.
Yes, like most talking animal pictures (and children’s movies in general), Cats & Dogs is filled with a stellar ensemble of celebrity voice actors including more than its fair share of television Emmy award winning sitcom talent like Christina Applegate, Neil Patrick Harris and Sean Hayes.
Of course, Bette Midler is predictably terrific as Kitty Galore, the title’s former feline spy gone villainous rogue. However director Brad Peyton also manages to reach beyond the usual suspects to ensure that its primary duo of two buddy cop style canines would sound both believable and refreshing to viewer ears with the inspired choice of Nick Nolte as the world weary Butch and the under utilized James Marsden as the anxious rookie Diggs.
After being kicked off the police force and grounded to his kennel for excessive, unauthorized use of tail wagging chutzpah that resulted in an entire used car lot’s worth of property damage, Diggs is recruited by DOG Headquarters to help Butch prevent vengeance crazed Kitty Galore from unleashing a heinous sound dubbed “The Call of the Wild” that will turn man’s best friend into man’s biggest threat.
Reluctantly forced to collaborate with the cats they traditionally love to chase and terrify into frenzy during their cover roles as household pets, Diggs and Butch team up with Christina Applegate’s sophisticated and smart MEOWS agent Catherine to bring down one of her own former allies.
In a witty “cat-meo” that I discovered harks back to the 2001 original film which I did not see, Sean Hayes returns briefly as the diabolical Hannibal Lecter inspired Mr. Tinkles, whom the crime-stopping heroes visit in their forty-eight hour quest to stop Galore. Just one of the many pop-culture jokes seasoned in the screenplay to appeal to older viewers – while admittedly the third act begins to grow a bit long before the final showdown, overall the movie works beautifully in appealing to all demographics.
Screening complete with an irresistible Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner 3D cartoon that I’d originally feared was inserted to appease older audience members for the kidtastic feature to come, Cats & Dogs managed to break the streak of insanely bad talking animal features of recent years from Space Chimps to G-Force with its adorable blend of seamless puppetry, computer animation, live action and nicely unobtrusive 3D that enhanced sequences rather than serving to distract.
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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I attended a free press screening of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.