Plot: What’s it about?
The endless battle between the sexes may also filter down to the level of the animals. More specifically, cats and dogs. You’re likely to spark an argument between most any two people, wherever you go, when you ask an opinion on which of the two you prefer. Such is the basis for this movie (not so much the argument you’re likely to start, but as to which is really “Man’s Best Friend”). If anyone cares, and I sincerely doubt that they do, I’m a cat person. Much like the character of Greg Focker (Ben Stiller’s character in ‘Meet the Parents’) I don’t hate dogs…I just prefer cats. Now that I come to think of it, that might not be that bad of an analogy. Robert DeNiro’s character was a cat-lover and tells the story that dogs sell out their love too easy and that you have to earn a cat’s love. Anyway, this isn’t about Meet the Parents–it’s about the ever-brewing war between Cats and Dogs. I might have to mention the fact that this is a movie geared for kids. There are obvious slapstick events that happen that I just did not laugh at, but may have if I were twenty years younger. Who knows? Also, I have to admit that some of these scenes rather scared me. Yes, really! The CGI effects in this movie are simply not that good. Movies are about suspending your disbelief and when you see all of these cheap, cheesy effects you know that what you’re watching isn’t real. It’s a throwback to the fishing wire trick with “Mr. Ed” some 40 years ago! While the special effects weren’t that special, it is an interesting concept and you’d be hard pressed not to get some enjoyment out of the movie.
The ring leader of the cats is a wily ‘ol beast by the name of Mr. Tinkles (voiced by Sean Hayes of ‘Will and Grace’ fame). The persian has a hatred for humanity and makes no secret of it. Meanwhile you have the canine opposition to Mr. Tinkles “bad guy” in the form of Lou (voiced by Tobey Maguire). While it’s devastatingly obvious that Mr. Tinkles resembles the cat in some of the old James Bond movies (Ernest Blowfeld constantly stroked the white persian cat), it’s natural that you’d want to side with that of Lou. Don’t! Only kidding…He is the dog of Professor Brody (Jeff Goldblum) who is working ala “The Nutty Professor” day and night to find the cure all drug for allergies against pets. Fortunately, crack canine agents will slip by the dogs defense network. It’s only when Lou gets a little too personally involved with his adopted family of humans that the trouble then starts to happen. While the plot is unmistakable, it’s the humans who ultimately make the film not land on all fours. Jeff Goldblum, a remarkable actor whose stuttering shtick is getting way too old way too fast (ever since Independence Day) and Elizabeth Perkins who hasn’t been in many movies without Kevin Bacon in close to a decade. The other talents that make the movie work are Charleton Heston, Michael Clarke Duncan and Jon Lovitz. All in all, you’ll enjoy the movie but it’s not anything to write home about. The humans are the weak point of the movie and the CGI effects will give more nightmares that I’d like to think about. Still, Cats & Dogs isn’t a cartoon, but maybe it would be better off if it were one…
Video: How does it look?
Warner has released this movie in not one, but two different versions. Unlike most of their DVD’s, they have opted for the “family” audience who obviously prefer the “Full Frame” version (I guess families like to listen to commentaries as well). The ever hard to find Widescreen version is the one reviewed here and for the most part, it looks pretty good. The movie is new and the 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer more than does the film justice. There were a few more errors that I care to see for such a new movie, but we can’t win them all. A bit of edge enhancement occurs throughout and is most noticeable around the animals (perhaps the CGI effects had something to do with it…who knows)? The black levels are dead on, however, and there are somescenes that had a bit of artifacting. Still, it looks very good for the most part and if you can get past the “special” effects, then you should have nothing to crow (make that “meow”) about.
Audio: How does it sound?
While not one of the strongest tracks that I can think of, Cats & Dogs does pack quite a punch…in some scenes. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is very active and aggressive, but it’s nothing that will knock your socks off (to quote…me). The, uh, dialogue is very active and clean and it’s a tribute to the soundtrack when you’re looking at “sophisticated muppets” and you can tell the actors voices that are voicing them. Still, there are some surround effects that might make you turn your head to hear where the sound came from and overall it’s not that bad. Then again, there is a little to be desired. Make sense?
Supplements: What are the extras?
Before I go on a rant about the DVD-ROM material, I’ll go over the features that normal people can access. The most noticeable feature is the feature-length commentary with Sean Hayes, the Director Lawrence Guterman, Chris Defaria and James Bissell. With four people on the track of a relatively short movie, it’s bound not to have many breaks in tone. It doesn’t. This is a very good track and you don’t learn a whole lot about the movie, but it’s informative and entertaining enough that it’s worth a listen. Heck…it might be more entertaining than the movie! There are two featurettes (labeled as “documentaries” on the box). The first is an HBO First Look: Cats & Dogs. This is a basic HBO featurette which has interviews with the cast and crew and has some behind the scenes footage. Nothing too fancy, but it’s a nice addition. The second is Teaching a Dog New Tricks. This, obviously, focuses on the animals in the movie. It’s more of an expansion of the “First Look” featurette than anything. There are some storyboards that are essentially the same with every movie, but still interesting as it’s neat to me how they come up with this sort of stuff. A theatrical trailer is also included as well as an “Interactive Trivia Challenge”. Now this leads me to the DVD-ROM portion of the disc. I have no problem with DVD-ROM, but so few people have this capability (I am one, however as I tend to be on the ‘cutting edge’ to review these discs) that it seems to be an awful waste of Warner’s time, effort and money to put the sheer amount of material on the DVD-ROM portion alone. You can view the ending, create secret identies for the individual pets, see galleries of the “stars” and much more. Why they did this is beyond me, but going from your TV to your computer screen (which will usually be a big screen to a small screen) is not a good experience for folks. Hopefully Warner will not repeat this and eventually learn to put the widescreen and full-frame versions on the same disc! Or am I just barking up the wrong tree?