Cats And Dogs
Cats and dogs duke it out in this live action feature about a professor on the brink of discovering a cure for dog allergies. The dogs assign an agent to protect the professor and his family from a feline invasion.
Professor Brody (Jeff Goldblum) is a mad scientist type who spends his days locked in the test tube-filled basement of his upper middle-class home, in hopes of developing a potential cure for dog allergies. A group of vigilante felines, led by Persian cat Mr. Tinkles, sets out to sabotage the professor's work in a bid to take over the world. The dogs, in order to protect their standing as man's best friend, decide to send out their best undercover agent to protect the professor's lab and the Brody household, but a barnyard snafu results in them sending Lou, an unsuspecting and clumsy beagle instead. Rather than replace the unskilled pup, the dogs decide to make do with what they have and attempt to train Lou to be a cutthroat agent. Lou's greatest challenge, however, is that he is not allowed to develop a bond with the Brody's, which would interfere with his mission and the greater good of dogs all over the world. It's a cute story that unfortunately gets boring really quickly, which is not a good thing for a film marketed to kids with short attention spans.
Golblum plays the role of Professor Brody as well as such a one-dimensional role can be played. His character spends a little too much time in the basement, emerging sporadically to test his vaccines by sniffing, or at times licking, the family pet. It's difficult to drum up sympathy for him and his family when they get kidnapped by Mr. Tinkle's henchmen in exchange for the professor's research. The part just seems too ridiculous for an actor like Goldblum, and too sharp a contrast from his past roles like Seth Brundle in The Fly or David Levinson in Independence Day. Elizabeth Perkins as Carolyn, his wife, and Alexander Pollock as their son Scott, have minimal and unmemorable roles. There were several impressive names in the voice cast, including Tobey Maguire, Alec Baldwin, Sean Hayes, Susan Sarandon, Michael Clarke Duncan, Jon Lovitz and Charlton Heston, but none were distinctive enough to add anything special to their animal counterparts. Hayes is entertaining enough as Mr. Tinkles, but a cat can only object to wearing a bonnet and getting bathed so often.
Boone Narr, who was the animal trainer and stunt coordinator on the set, does a mind-boggling job with the real-life animals, and the Jim Henson Creature Shop, which received an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects for the film Babe, created the puppets, so you know they're fantastic. The different visual effects used throughout the film-including puppets, animatronics and computer-generated imagery (CGI)--morph together so well it is difficult to discern where the real animals end and the puppets begin. The sets are interesting enough visually, especially the Flocking Factory, with its industrial revolution machinery, and the dog's secret headquarters (though one has to wonder why the dogs used a human keyboard made for bony fingers rather than a more ergonomically designed one for fluffy paws). Despite all the visuals, the film lulls after the first 30 minutes and doesn't regain its momentum, not even at the climax. The concept is great, and while everyone loves a good turf war, especially between dogs and cats, there just isn't enough substance to pull this film together.
Cats and Dogs is a menagerie of nicely executed special effects that could win over really young children, but anyone over the age of 12 might not be so enamored by its hollow characters.