It’s time for gig­gling cats and dogs

Pets-turned-spies un­leash best weapon on par­ents – hu­mor­ous takes on James Bond films

Austin American-Statesman - - MOVIES & LIFE - By Christy Lemire

Dogs and cats, liv­ing to­gether … mass hys­te­ria? Maybe not so much.

Though these an­i­mals were re­source­ful and well-equipped en­e­mies in the orig­i­nal “Cats & Dogs” from 2001, now they’re forced to band to­gether to fight a com­mon foe in the se­quel “Cats & Dogs: The Re­venge of Kitty Ga­lore.”

As you can tell from the name, this is a spy send-up, specif­i­cally of James Bond movies — the open­ing ti­tles alone are su­per clever, an in­di­ca­tion of the kind of eye for de­tail that’s in store through­out — and from there, the jokes fly fast and fu­ri­ous along with the fur. Sur­pris­ingly, most of them work in the script from Ron J. Fried­man and Steve Ben­cich. But as di­rected by Brad Pey­ton, the se­quel is a mix of live ac­tion, pup­petry and com­puter an­i­ma­tion, and the jum­bled look is its chief weak­ness: The an­i­mals are cute and all, but the vis­ual ef­fects that sug­gest they’re talk­ing too of­ten look jumpy and fake.

You want your talk­ing-an­i­mal movies to be re­al­is­tic, don’t you?

And, of course, be­cause it’s a fam­ily film com­ing out this sum­mer, it’s in 3-D. It prob­a­bly didn’t need to be — it never needs to be — but at least the ef­fects are more con­vinc­ing than they were in, say, a lousy con­ver­sion from 2-D like “The Last Air­ben­der.” They’re even more ef­fec­tive in the car­toon that pre­cedes “Cats & Dogs,” a new Looney Tunes of­fer­ing that’s old-school in spirit, fea­tur­ing Wile E. Coy­ote and the Road Run­ner. You could prob­a­bly watch those guys go at it for an hour and a half and be to­tally sat­is­fied.

Still, it’s a de­light­ful idea that cats and dogs not only en­joy a rich in­te­rior life while adults are away, but also func­tion as highly trained su­per spies, com­plete with elab­o­rate gad­getry. You know you’ve won­dered this your­self about your own furry friends at home.

So you might find your­self laugh­ing the whole way through, even at a take­off on “The Si­lence of the Lambs,” a film that’s been par­o­died ad in­fini­tum. Still, when it’s the fluffy, white fe­line Mr. Tin­kles strapped up in a cell, wear­ing that in­fa­mous mask — and voiced again by Sean Hayes — it adds an­other layer to the joke that’s at once twisted and kind of sweet.

This time, the self-styled vil­lain is Kitty Ga­lore, whose hair­less ap­pear­ance is fright­en­ing enough. As voiced with campy men­ace by the great Bette Mi­dler — who re­ally should do more of this sort of thing — she’s an over-the-top, di­a­bol­i­cal drama queen. But in a good way.

Kitty has a plan to en­slave dogs around the world and make cats the true rulers. The se­cret agents of DOG — led by Lou the bea­gle (Neil Pa­trick Har­ris) and Butch the Ana­to­lian shep­herd (Nick Nolte) — re­cruit the overea­ger Ger­man shep­herd Diggs (James Mars­den), who’s been cast off the San Fran­cisco po­lice force for his in­abil­ity to fol­low or­ders, to stop her. But they soon re­al­ize they have to team up with the un­der­ground cat group ME­OWS, led by Cather­ine (Christina Ap­ple­gate) and her boss, the tuxe­doed Tab Lazenby (Roger Moore, a nice touch). Both teams get help, sort of, from the scat­ter­brained, fasttalk­ing pi­geon Sea­mus (Katt Wil­liams).

Among the peo­ple who pop­u­late “Cats & Dogs,” Chris O’Don­nell plays Diggs’ for­mer po­lice part­ner and Jack McBrayer gets some re­li­able laughs do­ing a ver­sion of his guile­less doo­fus char­ac­ter — this time, a ma­gi­cian who’s Kitty Ga­lore’s un­sus­pect­ing hu­man com­pan­ion, who in­sists on dress­ing her in hu­mil­i­at­ing cos­tumes as part of his act.

But for grown-ups, kids, dogs, cats — who­ever’s watch­ing, there’s enough here to keep them en­ter­tained. Rat­ing: PG for ac­tion. Run­ning time: 1 hour, 27 min­utes. The­aters: Barton Creek, Cine­mark Cedar Park, Cine­mark Gal­le­ria, Cine­mark Round Rock, Cine­mark South­park Mead­ows, Gate­way, Lake­line, Starplex, Tin­sel­town South, Tin­sel­town Pflugerville, West­gate. In 3-D: Barton Creek, Cine­mark Gal­le­ria, Cine­mark Cedar Park, Gate­way, High­land, Starplex, Tin­sel­town Pflugerville, Tin­sel­town South.

Diggs, left, voiced by James Mars­den; Cather­ine, voiced by Christina Ap­ple­gate; and Butch, voiced by Nick Nolte, are on a mis­sion to stop the naughty Kitty Ga­lore.

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