Cats & Dogs

on July 04, 2001 by Michael Tunison
   As animal twists on standard movie genres go, "Cats & Dogs" follows the James Bond/"Mission: Impossible" superspy tradition a little too closely. Like so many of the flicks it spoofs, this tongue-in-cheek tale of house pet espionage focuses too much of its energy on high-tech gizmos and gimmicky action bits instead of meaningful plot and character development. While the presence of cuddly furballs mugging away in nearly every scene keeps the cute factor high, the overall package isn't exactly the cat's meow.

   The amusing premise concerns an adventure-craving beagle puppy named Lou (voiced by "The Cider House Rules'" Tobey Maguire) who finds himself caught up in a secret war pitting seemingly domesticated canines and felines against each other, all under the noses of their oblivious human "masters." It seems a spoiled house-cat known by the unfearsome-sounding name Mr. Tinkles (voiced by Sean Hayes from "Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss") has a sinister scheme to make the entire human race allergic to pooches, and the only way to stop him is for Lou and a team of highly trained dog agents to protect the allergy research of an eccentric human scientist ("Jurassic Park's" Jeff Goldblum) from an army of kitty ninjas and other whiskered attackers bent on stealing it.

   Director Lawrence Guterman (credited for "additional scenes" in "Antz") keeps things light and lively throughout, but aside from Hayes' memorable ranting as the pompous, Dr. Evil-ish Mr. Tinkles, the script lacks the wit and originality that made Robert Rodriguez's similar-feeling "Spy Kids" such a treat. Despite having stars on the level of Alec Baldwin, Susan Sarandon, "SNL's" Jon Lovitz and "The Matrix's" Joe Pantoliano pitching in to voice animal characters, most of "Cats & Dogs" boils down to an expensive "Tom & Jerry" cartoon, with the impressive effects from Jim Henson's Creature Shop too frequently called upon to pump up uninspired storytelling. Starring Jeff Goldblum, Elizabeth Perkins, Alexander Pollock and Miriam Margolyes. Directed by Lawrence Guterman. Written by John Requa and Glenn Ficarra. Produced by Andrew Lazar, Chris DeFaria, Warren Zide and Craig Perry. A Warner Bros. release. Comedy. Rated PG for animal action and humor. Running time: 86 min

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