“I’m 65% sure, I can go to 67% … Oh, look! A potato bug”
Remember those days of spoof films like Scary Movie, Superhero Movie, Date Movie, and ‘Insert Generic Genre Title’ Movie? Oh, that’s right, we haven’t left that abysmal period of cinematic history behind quite yet. But instead of inundating Middle Schoolers with fart jokes and actors who laugh at themselves, Hollywood has gone to the children. I’ve never seen Cats & Dogs, so I don’t know if that was a real film or not, however, its sequel, Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, is completely bad homage. Right from the start you’re thrown into a James Bond-type world of espionage with D.O.G. agents carefully placed at key information points and cats dressed up as dogs infiltrating to take spy photos of confidential files. Even the opening credits play like a stylized 007 intro with silhouettes and flowing animation. If not for Fred Armisen’s so over the top performance you have to believe his direction was to play it as unprofessionally as possible, I’d almost think this could be a serious spy flick.
It’s not. Not by a long shot it isn’t. Besides the Bond theme, you’ll find Kitty Galore’s evil villainess stroking her mouse Scrumptious like Dr. Evil and his cat—which could have been played by the same ‘cat-tor’—as well as a Hannibal Lector cameo from Sean Hayes’s Mr. Tinkles—I guess you had to see the original film—and more. The jokes play for a familiarity to films way above the age-range of its audience, causing so many visual gags to fall flat, only earning minimal chuckles from the parents in the theatre. One could say it is all a ploy to make the talking pet theme appeal to the adults attending, but you have to at least make it work for the kids on a pure fun level. Unfortunately, there are very few instances of that. Only Scrumptious herself (Elizabeth Daily), with quiet pleas for help and Seamus (Katt Williams), the large raisin or small grape sized brained pigeon deliver laughs. It is their absurdity and complete randomness that kept me from walking out, as well as the only real theatre-wide instance of enjoyment.
Enlisting my friend and her two young boys, I wanted to see if perhaps the cynic in me would unfairly judge the film. But even after asking third-grader Tommy and his little brother Andy what they thought, the unceasing barrage of excitement from kids after a great children’s film was nowhere to be seen. Because of the more adult subject matter and plot of Kitty Galore’s (Bette Midler) plan to make dogs turn on their owners, via a homemade satellite dish projecting a specially-constructed sound, so humans cage all canines and become vulnerable to feline takeover, Andy became bored quickly, having only the concept of talking animals in 3D to keep him engaged; but one can only be charmed by that for so long. Tommy, on-the-other-hand, expressed his enjoyment of the movie, but couldn’t pinpoint exactly what he liked. Perhaps its innocuous nature really only caused him to not hate it rather than actually enjoy the 82-minute escapade. Talking to him beforehand about Toy Story 3 and Despicable Me elicited memory upon memory of favorite moments, so the complete absence of such with Kitty Galore is worth noting. I did, however, hear him laugh with Scrumptious and Seamus too, proving the universal appeal of those two once again.
But can you really blame these kids? You can no longer say a film is bad and still watch it make boatloads of cash because of its targeted demographic. There are too many movies hitting multiplexes at an astounding rate. What used to be an industry of three animated films a year has blown up to at least 15 stateside theatrical releases in 2009. The sheer numbers mean quality will always be sacrificed and the youth are catching on to the ploy. They know what it is they want to see and those films are rewarded with box office legs. Throw in the mass love of a studio like Pixar—deservedly so—and the profits soar higher. Just because a film like Cats & Dogs did well upon release nine years ago, does not mean lightning will strike twice a decade later. The statute of limitations on this stuff is short; cute can only go so far when the trailers before the film show a new, even more adorable character to see. And Kitty Galore has an even bigger handicap with the stellar return of Looney Tunes playing first. After hitting a huge high with the wonderful Coyote Falls, the joy never had a chance to be sustained.
It’s easy to bash a film, though, for being unimaginative and redundant, especially when you can sit back and watch without regard for the time spent to put it all onscreen. The animation work is pretty great, making these talking animals appear realistic even when I’d guess more scenes than not had fully computer-generated pets. I loved young “Mad Men”-ite Kiernan Shipka being exposed to the world of intelligent cats and dogs; Wallace Shawn not only delivers with his too-smart-for-his-own-good cat villain Calico, but his feline counterpart’s tongue and mouth movements even made the lisp 100% authentically animated; and his scene alone, a catnip opium den run by an elderly cat lady, was hysterical, albeit completely over-the-head of anyone in the audience younger than 13 without a rudimentary handle on drug culture. I do get what the filmmakers tried to do, making all their performers ham it up whether by voice or action—Jack McBrayer was born for this stuff, what’s Chris O’Donnell’s excuse?—but besides a handful of moments hitting their mark, the overall execution is forgettable. I just hope the set-up for a part three falls on deaf ears. We don’t need another film portraying D.O.G. and M.E.O.W. going all interdepartmental in search of Mr. Tinkles. We really don’t.
Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore 3/10 | ★
 A scene from Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Village Roadshow Pictures’ comedy “CATS & DOGS: THE REVENGE OF KITTY GALORE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
 (L-R) DIGGS, voiced by JAMES MARSDEN; PEEK, voiced by JOE PANTOLIANO; and BUTCH, voiced by NICK NOLTE in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Village Roadshow Pictures’ comedy “CATS & DOGS: THE REVENGE OF KITTY GALORE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures