There was a time when a spy movie starring Roger Moore was cause for excitement. It was a guarantee of cool gadgets, some intrigue and at least one character with a name like Kitty Galore. His new film has all those things, except instead of a Stun Gas Cigarette or a storyline about a villain trying to destabilize Western Europe or character with a vaguely sexual name we get a kid friendly romp with, as the tagline says, “real spies… only furrier.”
The story involves Kitty Galore (voice of Bette Midler), once a cat spy for M.E.O.W.S. now a villain with a plan to broadcast a sound via every cell phone, TV and radio on earth that will drive all the dogs in the world mad. Her “Call of the Wild” will “make the world her scratching post.” Between her and victory, however, is a group of dogs, cats and even birds working together to fight against their enemies—both foreign and domesticated. They vow to stop the spread of radical felineism.
Along with the appeal of the voice cast, which includes Nick Nolte, Neil Patrick Harris, Christina Applegate and the former Bond, Roger Moore, whose character’s name, Tab Lazenby, is a cheeky reminder of another former Bond portrayer, the big thing “Cats & Dogs” has going for it is cute appeal. Cute, that is if you find a cat wearing a bunny suit adorable. Or if sad puppy dog eyes are your thing. If not, maybe you should go see “Inception” again, but animal lovers, especially young ones, will find much to enjoy here.
The movie is a pleasant, if forgettable, mix of mild action for the kiddies, talking, performing animals—it really is amazing what a good trainer can do with a bottle of liquid meat, (yes, there is such a thing)—and some pop culture references for the adults. The “Silence of the Lambs” gags feel a bit tired, like something from a Jay Leno monologue, but there are some good puns and the odd quote worthy joke.
The downside, and it is an occasionally very steep downside, is the inclusion of several human characters.
My first nominee for a trip to the kennel is Jack McBrayer who plays an inept magician named Chuck. McBrayer is very funny on “30 Rock” as Kenneth the NBC page but with every film role he takes on is revealing his lack of range. Here he is only half a degree away from Kenneth, but without the charm he brings to his television work.
Next up for a visit from the dog catcher is Fred Armisen. He’s not terrible in the movie, but he’s not really good either. He just is. And that’s disappointing from a performer who has created so many memorable characters on “Saturday Night Live.”
“Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore” is a rare breed, an action movie for tots that tosses a bone or two to the grown ups as well.