[Moving picture of popcorn]

Laramie Movie Scope:
Cats and Dogs

A movie that's gone to the dogs

[Strip of film rule]
by Robert Roten, Film Critic
[Strip of film rule]

July 8, 2001 -- "Cats and Dogs" is a movie that blurs the lines between cartoons and live action and between animals and humans. The live actors in the film, Jeff Goldblum, Elizabeth Perkins and Alexander Pollock, take a back seat to the animals and special effects. It is a funny film, primarily on a childlike level.

The plot involves a long-standing battle over planet earth waged between cats and dogs. In ancient times, the story goes, humans were ruled by cats until dogs overthrew them, putting humans in charge, or maybe dogs are really in charge, who knows? Anyway, there are all sorts of covert battles being waged between cats and dogs. Cats, led by Mr. Tinkles (voice by Sean Hayes), have an evil plan to regain supremecy. They hope to grab a vaccine developed by Professor Brody (played by Jeff Goldblum of "Independence Day." The formula stops people's allergic reactions to dogs. The cats hope to use the formula to create a new vaccine which will make all humans allergic to dogs.

Both cats and dogs have all sorts of high-tech spy gadgets like rocket sleds, two-way radio collars, dart-filled exploding hairballs, ultralight stealth aircraft, sophisticated surveillance gear and other stuff to carry on their missions. Butch (voice by Alec Baldwin) is the head of the canine operative unit whose mission it is to protect Brody and the vaccine. He gets an unwanted sidekick to help him in the form of a young beagle named Lou (voice by Tobey Maguire). Lou is interested in more than just the mission, however. He also wants to fit in with the Brody family, especially Brody's son, Scott (voice by Alexander Pollock). There are Ninja attack cats, and a very tough Russian secret agent cat. If you like cats, you'll notice right away the movie is anti-cat and pro-dog all the way, despite the fact that cats outnumber dogs in the U.S.

The story is clever and cute. There is plenty of action and lots of humor. There's a backstory involving Butch and another dog, Ivy (voice by Susan Sarandon) that has a slight moral to it. There's never a dull moment. The story attempts to explain why humans never catch cats or dogs talking (they use colloquial English). The special effects and animal trainers are very good. The cats and dogs both have interesting facial expressions as well as mouths that move in sync with their speech. Although there is a lot of live action in the animal sequences, plenty of animation is used as well. That makes this a kind of semi-cartoon.

While few, if any, films coming out of Hollywood these days could be considered anthropocentric regarding the relationship between man and animals, this one leans farther toward the anthropomorphic view of animals than most. It portrays a world in which there is almost no difference between dogs, cats and people. Indeed, this is similar to the world view of radical animal rights and environmental groups, and of some religions as well. Animal rights and environmentalism are passionately embraced in the Hollywood community, and it shows in this, and many other films.

In one scene, the dogs must decide whether or not to save some humans for the sake of a greater good. This is analagous to the debate over using animals for medical experiments. There is also a long history of portraying animals as essentially humans, so this is nothing new. When I was a kid, my attitude toward deer hunting was influenced by the movie "Bambi." But then again, this isn't a serious film. How could it be, with a wolf named Wolf Blitzer reporting the news on a canine television network? This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

[Strip of film rule]
Copyright © 2001 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
[Strip of film rule]
Back to the Laramie Movie Scope index.
[Rule made of Seventh Seal sillouettes]

Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)