July 29, 2010

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Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore (PG)
Cats, dogs and CGI work together to stop a supervillain from taking over the world in Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, the sequel to a movie you probably donít remember from 2001.

Thereís a good chance I reviewed that movie, Cats & Dogs, but I have zero memory of it and even a scan of the movieís Wikipedia entry rings no bells. Iím thinking this is some kind of defense mechanism. The same brain function that allows me to live without remembering any part of Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo.

Diggs (voiced by James Marsden) is a police dog working with human partner Shane (Chris OíDonnell). He is well-meaning but a bit of a menace ó accidentally blowing up a building, for example. But the dog intelligence network thinks he might have promise. So after he is sent back to the kennel by the human police, dog agent Butch (voiced by Nick Nolte) shows up to recruit him. Their first mission involves tracking down Kitty Galore (Bette Midler), a creepy hairless cat who wants to rid the world of both dogs and humans and has a Bond-villain-style device that she plans to set off in just a few days to accomplish that goal. She announces this to the feline world so that the cats of the world will join her, but while cats donít love dogs, they do want to protect humans. Enter Catherine (Christina Applegate), a cat agent at MEOW, the cat intelligence agency. Catherine, Butch and Shane will have to all work together if they want to stop Kitty and save the world from her nefarious plan. And, because you always need a comic relief character on a mission like this, they are also working with Seamus (Katt Williams), a pigeon who knows something about the streets.

Talking animals outside of cartoons is almost always the hallmark of a painful childrenís movie, and Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore doesnít challenge the status quo on that measure. Here, take 10 seconds and think of a gag about dog spies or a cat villain and Iíll bet itís in this movie. And, OK, maybe delighting a grown-up with originality isnít the first priority of a kidsí movie about secret agent dogs, but this movie also seemed to lose its kid audience from time to time ó thereís a lot of talking about how Diggs doesnít follow orders or how Shane wants him back that seemed to result in an increased level of squirming among the audience where I saw the movie. And when I squirmed with ďbe over alreadyĒ-ness, I found that the slight tilt of my head sent the 3-D effects into a headache-inducing double-image blur. The 3-D effects worked much better in a pre-show Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner short; in the movie they just seemed to get in the way.

Despicable Me proved you donít need to have Pixar-level artistry and pathos to turn out a really solid, enjoyable piece of kid and family entertainment. Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore proves, however, that itís harder than it looks and more complicated than just mixing some CGI effects with some doggie-butt humor. C-

Rated PG for animal action and humor. Directed by Brad Peyton and written by Ron J. Friedman and Steve Bencich, Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore is an hour and 40 minutes long and opens in wide release on Friday, July 30. It is distributed by Warner Bros.