Cat-astrophic holiday flick for kids
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.