October 9, 2008

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Beverly Hills Chihuahua (PG)
A prissy princess dog finds her inner bark in Beverly Hills Chihuahua, a joyless all-the-animals-talk live-action movie.

Chloe (Drew Barrymore) is the extremely pampered white chihuahua of high-powered diva Viv (Jamie Lee Curtis). Chloe wears Channel #5, goes to a spa and has lavish doggie playdates with her similarly well-heeled canine friends. Despite the snobbishness that all this attention has created in her, Chloe is beloved by Papi (George Lopez), the down-to-earth Chihuahua owned by Viv’s handsome landscaper Sam (Manolo Cardona). But Chloe thinks she’s a bit too fancy to talk to the likes of Papi, just as, we suspect, Viv’s niece Rachel (Piper Perabo) thinks she’s a bit fancy for the likes of Sam. When she loses Chloe during a trip to Mexico, when Rachel is supposed to be dogsitting, she finds herself turning to Sam for help to bring the pup home. Meanwhile, the lost Chloe meets the prickly but kind Delgado (Andy Garcia), a German Shepard who decides to help her find her way home. But can this lap dog find her animal survival instincts?

George Lopez is surprisingly energetic as Papi and there are moments of cutesiness here and there. But do six-year-olds really get delighted over a dog who name-checks Prada? The central humor of this movie — about a spoiled young woman who still acts like a teenage girl, about the Carrie Bradshaw-like lead dog, about her owner’s overkill devotion to her pet, about the road trip buddies that are the gruff Delgado and the prim Chloe — seems like it would be uninteresting to an audience that has much more personable cartoon animals talking in most of its entertainment. Occasional moments of funny animal tricks and goofy slapstick don’t make up for long stretches of animals talking about their feelings, their fears, their fashions. The movie is missing that essential kid-film twinkle of charm and glee. C

Rated PG for some mild thematic elements. Directed by Raja Gosnel and written by Jeffrey Bushell and Analisa LaBianco, Beverly Hills Chihuahua is an hour and 25 minutes long and is distributed in wide release by Buena Vista Pictures.