Cat-as­trophic hol­i­day flick for kids

The Timaru Herald - - Weekend Entertainm­ent -

Cats and Dogs 3: Paws Unite (G, 84 mins)

Di­rected by Sean McNa­mara Re­viewed by James Croot ★★

One look at the cast list for this furry far­rago shows you just how far the fran­chise has fallen. In 2001, the first in­stal­ment of this CGI-en­hanced live-ac­tion Mis­sion Im­pos­si­ble-meets-Austin Pow­ers ca­nine ca­per fea­tured a flesh-and-blood Jeff Gold­blum and an A-list vo­cal lineup that in­cluded Tobey Maguire, Alec Bald­win, Su­san Saran­don, and Charl­ton He­ston.

Fast-for­ward nine years and the nicely ti­tled, but dis­ap­point­ing The Re­venge of Kitty Galore could still at­tract Bette Mi­dler, Nick Nolte, Neil Pa­trick Har­ris, Christina Ap­ple­gate, and Roger Moore to the cause.

This time around? Um, The Big Bang The­ory’s Melissa Rauch, New Girl’s Max Green­field and Grouchy Smurf him­self Ge­orge Lopez.

In truth, Paws Unite wasn’t sup­posed to play in cin­e­mas. It’s made by Warner Bros’ Home En­ter­tain­ment Divi­sion and, un­til a few pan­demic weeks ago, was des­tined for a di­rect-to-stream­ingser­vice de­but. It shows.

For one, the thing that hasn’t

changed in the past two decades, de­spite myr­iad tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances, is the se­ries’ ef­fects.

While the ‘‘lip-sync­ing’’ of our an­i­mal ac­tors is ef­fec­tive, it’s their paw ac­tion that truly dis­turbs (its true hor­ror re­vealed dur­ing the clos­ing cred­its’ be­hind-the-scenes glimpses).

At least the cats fi­nally have equal sta­tus here. No longer are they sim­ply Hol­ly­wood’s tra­di­tional felo­nious fe­lines, not to be trusted one iota by their ca­nine coun­ter­parts.

Paws Unite opens with a frag­ile peace be­tween the species hav­ing been main­tained for the past decade, thanks largely to the Furry An­i­mals Ri­valry Ter­mi­na­tion

or­gan­i­sa­tion (and if you haven’t guessed the acro­nym, the hor­ri­bly laboured script re­minds you of it about five times in two min­utes).

Dog Roger (Green­field) and cat Gwen (Rauch) are two Seat­tle­based risk as­sess­ment agents who yearn for the thrill of field work.

They get their chance sooner than they think when the self­styled ‘‘most ne­far­i­ous vil­lain the world has ever seen’’ hacks into their global net­work, downs their com­mu­ni­ca­tion links and be­gins broad­cast­ing a sig­nal that reignites and in­flames old ri­val­ries.

Believ­ing that the source is within five blocks of their apart­ment build­ing, HQ is con­vinced that the fate of ca­nines and fe­lines ev­ery­where is solely in Roger and Gwen’s paws.

Oh dear, at least Mr Tin­kles and Kitty Galore had some sem­blance of men­ace. Paws Unite’s cos­tumelov­ing an­tag­o­nist is over­shad­owed by one of his blank-faced hench­men.

Worse still, he’s a pale im­i­ta­tion of a car­toon char­ac­ter voiced by our own Je­maine Cle­ment. And ‘‘vile, vil­lain­ous and vi­cious’’ Pablo is not.

Did I men­tion there are also hu­man char­ac­ters? Two teens, both sin­gle-par­ented – af­flu­ent, per­fec­tion­ist ten­nis prodigy Max (The Man in the High Cas­tle’s Cal­lum Sea­gram Air­lie) and self­doubt­ing, bud­ding mu­si­cian Zoe (Home Be­fore Dark’s Sarah Giles).

They’re there for Nick­leodeon­level meet-cutes and to de­liver the mes­sage that kids need to put down their phones and con­nect with each other and – more im­por­tantly for this story – their pets.

Filled with ex­po­si­tional di­a­logue, ter­ri­bly tele­graphed ac­tion, al­ley cats who live in a Tesla and an ob­vi­ous par­rot pup­pet driv­ing an ice­cream truck, Paws Unite of­fers a mi­nor school hol­i­day di­ver­sion for lit­tlies, but lit­tle en­ter­tain­ment for any­one over the age of about 9, es­pe­cially those who eas­ily tire of a movie seem­ingly comed­i­cally re­liant on poop and fart jokes.

Poop and fart jokes abound in Cats and Dogs 3: Paws Unite.

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