(by Dustin Putman
Having just revisited 2001's "Cats & Dogs" for the first time since its release, the sad truth remains: it is an awfully uninspired, wholly forgettable family comedy, one with a lazy plot, zero charm and sweetness, and a whole lot of talking animals saying nothing of interest. Indeed, are children of 2010 even familiar with it? Kids of 2001, who are now well into their teens, certainly won't care (and that's hinging on the assumption that they will even remember the original to begin with). Making a sequel to such an inconsequential predecessor—and doing it nearly a full decade later—is just plain bizarre, and yet, "Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore" is a markedly better movie. It's still totally frivolous, equating to junk food for single-digit viewers who would be much better off going to see the wonderful, wise "Ramona and Beezus" one theater over, but at least director Brad Peyton and screenwriters Ron J. Friedman and Steve Bencich show a modicum of inspiration in their near-constant riffs on popular past movies. It is also nice, for once, to see cats treated as more than just slinky, conniving villains; it's about time someone acknowledged that our feline friends can be every bit as good and well-meaning as their canine counterparts. Article continues below
When his attempts to thwart a crazed salesman and his planted explosives culminates in the fiery destruction of an entire car dealership, dog officer Diggs (voiced by James Marsden) loses his job alongside human partner Shane (Chris O'Donnell) and ends up at the pound. From out of the floor of his jail cell comes the tough, crusty Butch (voiced by Nick Nolte), who informs Diggs that he has been chosen to help underground organization Dog World with their latest enemy: a devilish cat named Kitty Galore (voiced by Bette Midler) hell-bent on taking down dogs as the world's number-one pets and enslaving humans. Helping the dogs this time are a slew of other virtuous types, among them ninja-cat-with-a-heart-of-gold Catherine (voiced by Christina Applegate) and one-winged pigeon Peek (voiced by Joe Pantoliano).
While young children are the target audience for "Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore," there are enough adult-minded references to keep the grown-ups diverted—if not exactly enthralled. The main titles sequence is a clever take-off on the usual animated James Bond openings, complete with a cover of Pink's "Get the Party Started" performed by Dame Shirley Bassey. There is also a hoot of a flashback to Kitty Galore's past revealing a tragic fall into a vat of hair removal cream (hints of 1989's "Batman" are unmistakable), followed by a denouncing from her owners on Christmas Eve (1992's "Batman Returns," anyone?) because of her newfound physical abnormality. A trip to Alcatraz and a meeting with psychotic prisoner cat Mr. Tinkles (voiced by Sean Hayes), who may be able to help the good guys in their mission to stop Kitty Galore, is a highlight in its direct ribbing of 1991's "The Silence of the Lambs" right down to his taunts concerning Catherine's daddy issues.
The feline version of her character Winifred Sanderson from 1993's "Hocus Pocus," Bette Midler (2008's "The Women") is a delicious scene-stealer as the sneaky, plotting Kitty Galore (aka Ivana Scratchyu), acting dumb around new owner, bumbling amusement park magician Chuck (Jack McBrayer), while planning world domination when she's left to her own devices. Meanwhile, her respective pet, a small white mouse named Scrumptious (voiced by E.G. Daily), is understandably horrified. When Kitty Galore is onscreen, the film sparks to life. When she's not, it's a rather by-the-numbers procedural with only the warm voicework of Christina Applegate (2008's "The Rocker") as Catherine and the inspired return of Sean Hayes (2007's "The Bucket List") as maniacal Mr. Tinkles warranting positive mention. In comparison, the dogs are a throwaway bunch and Chris O'Donnell (2008's "Max Payne"), as homosapien cop Shane, is wasted to the point of embarrassment. So thankless is the part that the film totally forgets about him midway through and only remembers him again in time for the final scene.
With the possible exception of the value of teamwork, "Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore" imparts few messages on the viewer. It's a fast-paced action spoof, replacing people with animals, and doesn't really stop long enough to endear the viewer or make them care. In one ear and out the other, the film is perfectly matched (in theaters, at least) with the pre-feature Looney Tunes cartoon short "Coyote Falls," a brutal, ultra-violent study in torture starring Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner. Whereas Pixar's shorts can be relied upon to be every bit as innovative and whimsical as their feature presentation, leave it to Warner Bros. to match up the morally bankrupt "Coyote Falls" with something as dispensable as "Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore."
Special Note: "Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore" follows in the footsteps of "Clash of the Titans" and "The Last Airbender" as a movie that was shot in two dimensions and has been converted to fake 3-D for its theatrical release. Once again, the use of 3-D is worthless, noticeably dimming the cinematography's brightness level, warping the attractive colors, and looking for the vast majority of time like a regular 2-D presentation that one has to wear sunglasses to watch. For an inflated premium ticket price, you, too, can enjoy the movie in all its sup-par visual glory.