As I watched Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, a few questions came to mind. Will the children who comprise the film’s target audience understand the allusions to James Bond, Austin Powers, The Terminator, and Silence of the Lambs? Will the unfortunate adults in the audience for whom these allusions are no doubt intended even care? The answer to both these questions is no. And yet Brad Peyton, the director of this untimely sequel to Cats & Dogs seems to think that self-referential in-jokes can pass for wit and humor.
I love cute talking-animal movies. I enjoyed 2001’s Cats & Dogs in spite of its sentimentality and annoying “Disney family values” view of family relations. While the movie doesn’t come close to touching the very best of the genre (Babe), it was charming and clever at times, and it elicited genuine laughs as it followed the covert operations of evil cats and human-loving dogs carried out behind the backs, and underneath the noses, of the unsuspecting human characters. The live-action human component in the plot is a significant part of why the original worked so well.
The sequel, by comparison, is too noisy and gimmicky and lacks the human element which is odd considering that the feline antagonists and canine protagonists are once again battling over the fate of mankind. Dogs may be man’s best friend, but we barely see them interact with their two-legged friends. If they aren’t important enough to include, who cares if the cats enslave the human race?
I find the advancements in digital effects, animatronics, and puppetry to be a mixed blessing. Too often these valuable tools become the show itself. Certainly there are films — Avatar — in which the ground-breaking special effects and computer imagery are integral to the story. But Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore suffers from relying too much on dizzying visuals while shunting the human characters offstage.
The sequel boasts an impressive cast of voice talent. Bette Midler is mostly perfect as Kitty Galore, a former MEOWS operative turned rogue agent who, after falling into a vat of hair removal cream, becomes a laughing stock among her colleagues and an undesirable companion to her humans who promptly abandon her. Joe Pantoliano and Michael Clarke Duncan reprise the voices of canine agents Peek and Sam, respectively. Rounding out the cast of voices are James Marsden, Christina Applegate, Nick Nolte, Katt Williams, Neil Patrick Harris, Wallace Shawn, and Roger Moore. Sean Hayes makes a brief “appearance” as Mr. Tinkles.
Chris O’Donnell is on board as the main human character, Officer Shane. Why bother to cast him only to yank him after five minutes onscreen? His part is so small and insignificant that his footage might as well have ended up on the cutting room floor.
Once you get past the inevitable, “Ah, how cute” reaction, you’ll see that there few laughs and even less heart to be found in Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore. The kiddies should enjoy the frantic pacing and overblown visuals even if the adults sitting beside them moan and groan.