REVIEWED: CATS AND DOGS: THE REVENGE OF KITTY GALORE

Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore

Bette Midler barely keeps it from one-star territory.

Though the last few months have passed by quite comfortably without the nagging appearance of any talking animal films, don’t get complacent that there’s been a Hollywood amnesty on them. One of cinema’s most excruciating subgenres is back with near-debilitating vengeance in the resolve-testing sequel that few people asked for; Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore.

Anyone who says that film reviewing is an easy gig evidently hasn’t been to their multiplex in the last month and seen the trailer – nay, just the marquee displays – for this film. Perhaps they have and are seeking help. The only certainty is that Cats and Dogs 2 is a sure contender for worst film of the year, and it’s the sort of disaster that makes the more maligned works of the summer thus far aspire to comparisons with Kubrick and Scorsese.

The plot involves the evil Kitty Galore (Bette Midler) attempting to destroy dogs once and for all by playing a sound so horrifying it will turn every dog in existence crazy. Of course, the dogs, led by Diggs (James Marsden), are on the case, yet they will have to this time team up with their natural rivals – the cats – to take her down.

Many of these types of films coast by on the fact that they’re cute – not this one. Firstly, it isn’t really very cute, and secondly, it’s so horribly misguided in execution and, well, just about everything that isn’t Bette Midler, that it is in fact all rather ugly. The inept clunkiness of the concept – that dogs and cats operate seemingly autonomous, technologically advanced organisations – is itself a tough sell, but the surplus of awkward gags that aim to anthropomorphise the animals are absolutely painful. Last year’s G-Force, an altogether more consistent and entertaining film of the same caste, had a far better grasp on exactly what it was. Cats and Dogs is instead awkward and totally incongruent from start to finish.

Though there’s a fair share of embarrassment to go around, the most notable casualty is the talented yet often squandered Chris O’Donnell, slumming it as the homogenously good-natured human who may as well not exist for all the importance he lends the plot. Bereft of much emotional attachment to his canine that isn’t incredibly hackneyed, it’s hard to imagine why he would plumb these depths short of falling victim to a Ponzi scheme. The other notable players – Marsden, Christina Applegate, Neil Patrick Harris, Nick Nolte, Joe Pantoliano and Michael Clarke Duncan – at least acquit themselves on the grounds that their physical form never appears on screen.

In fact, the only notable turn is from Bette Midler, who plays the titular Kitty with a palpable level of malevolence and gusto. Still, even she has to wrestle against the forces of the script, for Galore is too often involved in Midler-free scenes in which her owner – an annoying jackass of a magician – dresses her up in mildly amusing outfits.

This is the exact opposite of how to write a kid’s film. The film’s chief pop culture reference – dressing a cat up in the garb and demeanour of Hannibal Lecter – is doubtless lost on children, but it cannot be merely palmed off as one of those “in there for the parents” moments, because it’s an extended gag that’s only funny if you’re aware of the joke’s genesis. Most other similar allusions – namely to Lethal Weapon – will make you shudder.

The 82-minute runtime is merciful, but aside from a Looney Tunes CGI short prior, there’s little here an undiscerning child, let alone a sentient adult, should actively wish to be subjected to.

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