Lone Wolf Sullivan is a writer, songwriter, and studio musician.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Cats & Dogs (2001) * * *

Eccentric Professor Brody (Jeff Goldblum) is working on a serum to cure dog hair allergies in humans. Unknown to him, cats and dogs have been engaged in a secret war to take over the world for centuries. This struggle has been held in check by an uneasy truce. But that period of peace is about to come to an end. A power-hungry ruthless Persian cat, Mr. Tinkles (voiced by Sean Hayes), is leading a massive feline movement against man's best friend. He will make every person on Earth allergic to dogs so that he can take over the world with his army of evil cats. The human race doesn't have a clue about the war between cats and dogs. Cats are James Bond type villains and dogs are secret agents that have been protecting the human race. One of their top field dogs, a Bloodhound agent named Buddy, has been put out of commission and they have been forced to use rookie Beagle puppy Lou (voiced by Tobey Maguire), who is the new pet of Brody's son Scotty (Alexander Pollock). Lou's inexperience as an agent makes him a prime target for assault, though his comrades, led by the stern Anatolian Shepherd Butch (voiced by Alec Baldwin), offer him help and guidance in the ways of becoming an agent.

Lou: You should've fought for me, for my family.
Butch: Why? What good would it do?
Lou: What about man's best friend? History 101, remember?
Butch: Okay, well, here's lesson number two: we help them. We work for them. We tolerate that stupid poochy-poochy baby talk crap. And for what? So that when they go off to college, they can dump you off with some old lady who can't throw a ball without so much as breaking her hip!
Lou: Is that it, then? You're gonna blame my family for what some boy did to you?
Butch: Look, kid, I'm sorry it played out like this, but it's over. We're shut down.

As the unsuspecting humans go through their busy lives, the cats make several attempts to obtain the formula, as their canine foes try tirelessly to stop them. Mr. Tinkles strives to get to the substance, analyze it and then have it turned into a means of rendering all humans in the world allergic to any kind of dog. Cats would rule, and dogs would then be exterminated. As his army of well-trained soldier cats begin a mass mobilization, the fate of humankind rests on the paws of Lou. Together with Butch and a few other dog agents from the neighborhood, Lou desperately tries to stop Mr. Tinkles and his sinister plans. Other dogs include a wise older dog who watches out for him, a large friendly dog, and a small dog who serves as an electronics expert.

Mr. Tinkles: The ninjas failed, and failure is unacceptable! If they ever show their faces again, you know what to do.
Calico: Yes. Tell them to wash with a loofah sponge. Kidding! Hello? Joke!
Mr. Tinkles: This can't be happening. I want them eliminated!
Calico: But they did manage to bug the phone. I think we should just concentrate on the glasses half full.
(Mr. Tinkles growls and throws the roll at Calico)
Calico: Ow! That's what I want to do.
Mr. Tinkles: Oh, putting a happy face on. What an interesting philosophy. At what point did you forget we're trying to take over the world?

The movie features ninja Siamese cats wreaking havoc with their kung fu prowess. Some cats wear night-vision goggles, a cat coughs up bombs disguised as fur balls, and Mr. Tinkles falls prey to the maid of his owner, who dresses him up in lacy outfits. He says, "Evil does not wear a bonnet! Did Genghis Khan ever wear a bonnet?" This effects-laden family movie can annoy cat fanciers by casting dogs as the undisputed heroes in all-out warfare with nefarious felines. Hidden headquarters and high-tech gadgets are featured on both sides of this age-old battle. On the feline side, Mr. Tinkles plots to sabotage the efforts of Professor Brody. On the canine side, Butch trains Lou to foil Mr. Tinkles's scheme--a mission that begins when Mrs. Brody (Elizabeth Perkins) adopts Lou for her son Scott.

Mr. Tinkles: Like a powerful, dark storm, I will make my presence known to the world. Like a seeping mist, I will creep into the dogs' center of power, and make them quake in fear at the very mention of my name!

Using a combination of live animals, animatronic puppets, and digital wizardry, CATS & DOGS has enough imagination to match its effects, climaxing with a feline global-domination scheme involving mice sprayed with chemicals that will make all humans allergic to dogs. The computer generated realistic lips are completely convincing when the pets speak. Goldblum and Perkins play second fiddles to this menagerie, and as madcap realism gives way to cartoonish fantasy, the movie escalates into utter chaos. Dogs include a Saluki hound (voiced by Susan Sarandon), a shaggy sheepdog (voiced by Michael Clarke Duncan), and a Chinese hairless techno-geek named Peek (voiced by Joe Pantoliano). Similar to the "Babe movies", "Cats & Dogs" is harmless fun--especially for dog lovers.

Lou: I think that if I'm going to be a secret agent, I should have a better name. I was thinking, "Toto Annihilation".
Peek: Nah, he's a pro wrestler. Sorry, that name's taken.
Lou: Alright then, "Doom Machine" it is!
Butch: Hey! You can call yourself Squicky the Spacedog for all I care, but that doesn't make you behind a rocket pack.

This is a very funny comedic action-adventure flick that mixes live action with cutting-edge CGI and animatronic effects. It is rated PG, apparently for the violence between the cats and dogs, which is carried on in a cartoonish manner that no one will find disturbing. It's a a successful family film that is charming and pleasing in every way, with funny dialogue appealing more to understanding adults, while the non-stop camera movements, cheesy effects, and characters will carry children along on its wild ride. The lighthearted comedy, laughs, and humorous jokes are purr-fect fun.

Though actors Goldblum, Elizabeth Perkins, and Alexander Pollock do impressive work as the human family, they cannot hold a candle to our furry friends. Each character is voiced magnificently by their actor, none as brilliantly as Sean Hayes, who is a real hoot as Mr. Tinkles. His devilish wit and impressive voice talent are amusing, a Dr. Evil for the younger set. To call CATS & DOGS anything but good clean fun only proves the cynicism of adulthood. The movie is one of the most enthusiastic and energetic films of the genre to be produced in a long time, a cross between the animal physicalities of "Homeward Bound" and the technical spy intelligence of the James Bond films. This is the ultimate definition of "cute," and is total, complete fun.

The cast also includes: Miriam Margolyes (Sophie the Castle Maid), Myron Natwick (Mr. Mason), Doris Chillcott (Mrs. Calvert), Kirsten Robek (Pie Mom), Frank C. Turner The Farmer), Mar Andersons (Guard at Factory Gate), Gillian Barber (Factory Receptionist), Carol Ann Susi (Sophie's Sister), Randi Kaplan (Sophie's Sister), Mary Bogue (Sophie's Sister), Alvin Sanders (Mason Employee), Mark Schooley (Mason Employee), Lou Bollo (Worker), Scott Nicholson (Worker), Trish Schill (Worker), Babe Dolan (Wife passenger), Reg Glass (Truck driver), Charles Andre (Truck driver), Peggy Logan (Nurse), Alicia Michelle (Jogger on Sidewalk), and Pamela Perry (Yorkie Dog Owner). John Debney composed the original music. John Requa and Glenn Ficarra wrote the screenplay. Lawrence Guterman directed.

The DVD features include a Dog Commentary, Cat Commentary, Deleted Scenes, and "Teaching A New Dog New Tricks". Production of a sequel, tentatively named "Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore", began on September 2, 2008 under the direction of Brad Peyton. Some of the scenes will be filmed in Playland, Vancouver, and the film is scheduled to be released on November 20, 2009.

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