Back in 2001, the film Cats & Dogs revealed that domestic animals are secretly waging a covert secret agent-style war against each other. Nine years later, and as we still haven’t noticed, they’ve released a sequel.
I do remember watching the original Cats & Dogs film, many moons ago. It was the sort of film you would have filed with Ace Ventura: it picked up decent to good box office takings, but it would probably have a few critical tut tuts in the wings, and not really be in the running for Baftas and Oscars. Luckily, none of those sorts of criticisms will stop you (or your kids, if you have them) going along and having a good time with this solid sequel.
The film concerns the return of failed cat spy Kitty Galore and her attempts at world domination, or at least bringing the dog population of the world to heel. Dog agents Diggs (James Marsden) and Butch (Nick Nolte) are duly assigned, although they end up needing some unlikely help from other species.
The film works on a couple of levels, as you can enjoy cute animals, projecting human language/emotions onto them, and there’s also a good fun spy yarn, with enough witty back chat to amuse the adults and the spy/sci-fi film geeks amongst us. In fact, there’s an armada of little touches that pastiche and parody sci-fi and spy film genres.
Spot for yourself geek-satisfyingly entertaining quotes and misquotes from the likes of Mission: Impossible, Heroes, Goldfinger, and probably many more. There are also some great comedic moments too, the cat commune in the old lady’s house in San Francisco being an obvious highlight.
My friend pointed out that in the nine years since the first film, several kids that might have enjoyed it are now in a different phase of their life, and so it would be interesting if the filmmakers thought they were heading for the same audience. They almost certainly do not, as it can very much stand on its own without continuity from the previous outing. They seem to have had a complete cast transplant, aside from Sean Hayes continuing as the voice of Mr. Tinkles.
The film was preceded by a Road Runner short which seemed to be high jacking the release of a major film to get Warner Bros some feedback on whether there was any mileage in making their legendary cartoons in 3D. Certainly Road Runner cartoons seem an obvious target with their wide open deserts and cliff-jumping exploits. In fact, the scope of this was fairly limited, being simply about Wile E. Coyote trying to use a bungee rope on a bridge to help him leap down and capture the Road Runner.
The results were all too predictable, but the action was very striking in 3D, and almost made me wonder if it wasn’t even a little too manic and scary on the big screen. However, on reflection, I was probably more startled than the youngsters surrounding me at the screening, who maintained a suitably interested silence through the short and the main feature.
I can’t say I’m a model of political correctness, but you may feel some racial discomfort at the sort of comic relief role fulfilled by pigeon Seamus (Katt Williams) here, particularly when three pigeons are singing street-style round a Coke can with flames on top, like a trashcan bonfire for the homeless. But that might just be me.
On a brighter note, I am a self-confessed Roger Moore fan, and it was extremely nice to have him making a cameo appearance as the voice of Tab Lazenby, the head of cat intelligence. It wasn’t clear whether Tab was short for Tabby (cat) or some reference to the ‘other’ Mr. Lazenby’s financial circumstances. There was also a feeling that Roger Moore’s dialogue performance wasn’t as entirely ‘integrated’ with the film as the others, although I would put that down to his dedication to his busy UNICEF Goodwill ambassador schedule.
It’s a sign of how comfortable we (or, at least, I) am getting with the 3D film, that I just enjoyed the effects and action without really being majorly ‘aware’ of it as such. The regular appearance of flying, explosions, slapstick and chaos was enriched for me by the 3D effects, but somehow I found myself taking it in my stride and just enjoying it alongside the story.
One rather weird aspect was the outdated product placement that almost made me wonder if the film hadn’t been created a bit nearer to its predecessor. The principal kitty bad girl Kitty Galore (Bette Midler) does all her computer plotting on what looks like a 1998 iMac G3, and the human policeman Shane (Chris O’Donnell) actually takes a call about his lost dog on what appears to be a Motorola Razr from around 2005. Maybe the sponsorship contract deal for the film got signed a bit prematurely!
I’m still confused as to whether filmmakers really want us to watch the closing credits or not. I often do, as there’s usually at least one nugget of revealing information in them. During the credits at the end of this there are some cutesy ‘you’ve been framed’ clips of what seem to be real cats and dogs, but there’s also a last bit of footage after the text credits at the end, so if you rush out you’ll miss it…
All in all, this is an enjoyable light-hearted film, for anyone that’s not going to let critical snobbery spoil it for them.
Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore (3D) is released on August 4th.