Beverly Hills Chihuahua
Take Lady and the Tramp, crossbreed it with Babe and a Taco Bell commercial, and you'll get the latest Disney talking-dog movie, an odd mix that kids are gonna love--even if it's not best in show.
Chloe (voiced by Drew Barrymore) is a diamond-drenched, pampered pooch who lives the high life in Beverly Hills. Beloved by her owner, Aunt Viv (Jamie Lee Curtis), and adored by the landscaper's Chihuahua, Papi (George Lopez), she is left with a babysitter, niece Rachel (Piper Perabo), when Viv takes off on vacation. Rachel impulsively departs on a last-minute weekend romp to Mexico, with Chloe, who not only gets lost south of the border but ends up in some very bad company. Saved from certain death in a dog fight, she hooks up with a street-savvy German Shepherd (Andy Garcia) harboring a dark secret from his past life as a police dog. Along the way, her diamond ID collar is swiped by a conniving rat (Cheech Marin) and his accomplice, a very fidgety Iguana (Paul Rodriguez), leading to major chaos as all of them are pursued by the vicious El Diablo (Edward James Olmos), a Doberman out for revenge and one very disoriented Chihuahua. Will Rachel and Papi be able to find her in time before clueless Aunt Viv's return? That's the burning question.
Basically a talking dog movie with a heavy Spanish accent, Beverly Hills Chihuahua doesn't exactly shy from stereotyped Mexicans, but since this is a canine Babe it manages to get away with just about anything simply because these pooches are just so darned cute. The voice cast, which features such Latino stars as George Lopez, Edward James Olmos, Paul Rodriguez, Cheech Marin and Andy Garcia, is perfectly cast, lending a lot of fun to the proceedings, especially Lopez as the lovably loyal Papi and Marin as a jewel-thief rat. Barrymore is also ideal as the ultra-rich and spoiled Chloe, who is the equivalent of a canine Paris Hilton. The human actors are basically wallpaper, with Curtis given little dimension in her relatively brief screen time and Perabo spending most of the film searching for the pup she carelessly misplaced. Manolo Cardona does nicely as the family gardener who helps out in the search. But it's the remarkable real dog stars that steal this show. You have to wonder how their trainers, led by Birds And Animals Unlimited's Mike Alexander, pulled some of this stuff off. These animals are more three-dimensional than most real thesps we've seen lately and actually do seem to be mouthing their lines (including some very clever dialogue).
The old show-business adage says to never work with kids or animals--they take center stage everytime. In this case, director Raja Gosnell and the group of talented trainers behind the cameras have proven the saying absolutely right. Dominating the breezy 86-minute time, the bulk of the movie is devoted to stars of the four-legged variety, and Gosnell makes it look easy with inventive camera angles, giving us the POV of all the various dog stars who seem to be taking on the distinct personalities of the "characters" they are playing, particularly the soulful down-and-out ex-police dog Garcia voices. You really do wonder what this dog's deep, dark secret is and the relationship forged between him and Chloe is genuinely real. It's a tribute to Gosnell's talents and the entire behind-the-scenes team that Beverly Hills Chihuahua turns out to be the family delight it is.
Hollywood.com rated this film 3 stars.