In the realm of faceless people writing about movies from the safety of the internet, I like to think I’m one of the more reasonable you’ll find. But I could be wrong. (See?) It’s a point that’s come up before, but it bears repeating: Unlike most people who write about movies online, I’ve spent A LOT of time working in all corners of the film and television industries in virtually every position there is. I know well how hard people work, around the clock, to bring every show to an audience. I try not to take that hard-earned knowledge lightly. Besides, I have friends who still work in film and TV, and I’m not even all the way out myself. I try mighty hard not to put anything on a computer screen that I don’t feel ready to say to someone’s face. On top of all of that, I grew up with movies. I love this stuff as much now as I did when I was young — if not more. It doesn’t make me happy to be unkind. I’m in this to share my enthusiasm, plain and simple.
All of that said, and try as I might, it’s way harder to find new ways to be nice. It’s certainly harder to be funny that way. And sometimes, a movie is put in front of me about which I just can’t find much nice to say and still remain honest.
These are the movies that forced me to be unkind.
This is from August 5th, 2010:
It’s true. I’ve seen Cats & Dogs: The Revenge Of Kitty Galore. It really happened. I was on a pretty good streak of seeing really solid movies there for a while, and such streaks are inevitably made to be broken. The real reason why this occurred is that I am uncle to an adorable niece and I am bound by my will to honor her every request, within reason. Hopefully the rest of you love the children in your lives significantly less. Just this once, love is not the answer.
This Cats & Dogs movie is nominally a sequel to the previous movie called Cats & Dogs, but I’m not sure that there’s any kind of story to follow. The first movie came out in 2001, which makes the gap between movies comparable to the time James Cameron took between Titanic and Avatar. But whereas Cameron spent all that time working on new technologies and designing a movie that would appeal to the widest audience possible, Cats & Dogs does the opposite. If anything, it seems like the makers of Cats & Dogs spent nine years accumulating all the crappy dog and cat puns in the world. Seriously, I haven’t seen a movie with this many crappy puns since Batman & Robin, and we all know how that one went.
I’m not even going to bother recapping the plot for you, because… who cares? The dogs and the cats are in some secret war, where this one police dog (voice of James Marsden) gets recruited by the dog side to stop this one evil cat (voice of Bette Midler), but it’s really all just an endless, crappy, James Bond riff. Now there’s an original fount of comedy; no one’s ever spoofed James Bond before. (Besides only Our Man Flint, In Like Flint, Fathom, the original Casino Royale, The Pink Panther, Get Smart, For Your Height Only, The Cannonball Run, Austin Powers, just about every cartoon ever made, and probably every third episode of Family Guy… just for starts.) Can you possibly feel good about yourself as a creative person if you’re doing sustained James Bond spoofs in the year 2010? Do you realize that kids, your target audience, don’t get the joke? Do you realize that kids don’t actually find animal puns all that funny? No, they don’t! But more on that in a second.
Some of the voice cast is done by actors who I actually like (usually), such as Christina Applegate, Nick Nolte, Neil Patrick Harris, Michael Clarke Duncan, and comedian Katt Williams, but let’s face it, they’re all just cashing paychecks here. And those people who complain about cartoons being aimed too much towards adults these days might be reassured by this movie. There was nothing for me here. There is nothing here for any fan of these performers. Having Christina Applegate in a movie doesn’t do any good if I can’t look at her. Having Nick Nolte in a movie doesn’t do any good if he doesn’t growl, “Damnit Reggie!” every once in a while. Having Katt Williams in a movie will surely disappoint his many fans if he’s not allowed to use the N-word. I mean, you see the name Katt Williams in the credits, and it’s fair to expect that the N-Word is going to happen. I’m not saying that it’s right, or that anyone should feel good about it, but devil’s advocate: Would this movie be any better if the pigeon voiced by Katt Williams was running around saying the N-word? Well no, but it couldn’t have been any worse either.
So grown-ups will be miserable; that’s a given. Then again, this movie isn’t not really for kids either. It leans heavily on butt-sniffing humor, which seems to be leaning dangerously close to gay-panic humor at moments. (The Bette Midler fans in the audience won’t dig it.) The movie comes close to insinuating an interspecies romance. There’s a scene with stoner cats. Good luck explaining that one to your kids. The human performances are wincingly bad, particularly Jack McBrayer, who really better hope, employment-wise, that 30 Rock stays on the air for as long as possible. But I’d rather cringe at human behavior than have to ponder the questionable morality of putting words in animals’ mouths. It’s one thing if we humans decide to act like dickheads – at least that’s a choice – but these dogs and cats are not being given the option over how they’re portrayed. I know it’s a big-philosophy question, but if this movie doesn’t have a brain in its head, that doesn’t mean I have to turn mine off.
Besides all that, here’s the only review you need. On the way into the theater, my niece tugged at my hand and smiled, “This is going to be the greatest movie I ever seened!”
After twenty minutes or so, the fidgeting started. Then it turned into full-blown roaming. Somehow we made it through the whole thing. But.
On the way out, she turned to me and said, “I don’t want to see Cats & Dogs again!”
This is a kid who can tolerate more hours of Dora The Explorer than even the toughest guy in the county (her uncle) can handle, and this one she couldn’t stand. I think I just inadvertently told you that we’d both rather watch Dora The Explorer. There can be no more dire condemnation of a supposed kids’ movie than that.
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