What You Need To Know:
CATS AND DOGS suffers from predictable plot points, tired cliches, no character development, and over-the-top acting. Its violence and toilet humor is unacceptable for children ages 3 to 12.
(EvEv, L, VVV, M) Anthropomorphic evolutionary worldview featuring sentient cats & dogs; 4 exclamatory profanities & several verbal & visual vulgarities such as "smell my butt," dogs marking their territory, flatulence, dog sniffing, & dogs drinking from toilets, etc.; over-the-top cartoon violence with dog hitting its head against a tree, dog crashing through a window (twice), biting, scratching, very violent & ugly ninja cats, very violent & ugly when angry Russian cat, exploding bone, cat grenade that sends out spikes which destroy room, bombs, ninja knives, cat abuses comatose man, cat abuses other cats, & factory explodes; no sex; no nudity; no drinking; no smoking; and, weak father figure.
There’s something seriously wrong with the studio system when Warner Bros. won’t advertise their only family movie for the summer on family television and radio channels. More than that, there is something seriously wrong with the entire entertainment industry when, after years of major, blockbuster movies opening on the Fourth of July, the entertainment industry only has this weak movie available for the Fourth in 2001.
CATS AND DOGS is a pitch looking for a story and a plot. It starts out with an extended chase scene where, of course, cats and dogs are fighting like cats and dogs. The level of violence, however, is more intense than the Warner Bros. cartoons of the classic age of cartoons because these are real animals. (CATS AND DOGS started out as a cartoon, but soon it was transformed into a live action movie.)
The plot thickens when the audience discovers that the cats and dogs can talk, and, when a group of cats catnap a key dog secret agent. The dog agents have been protecting the Brody family because Dr. Brody, played by Jeff Goldblum in another one of his over-the-top parts, is trying to find a cure for people’s allergic reactions to dogs. The dogs realize that, if he finds this cure, they can do a better job of protecting the humans from the evil cats.
To replace the catnapped agent, the dogs try to arrange for Mrs. Brody to adopt one of their best agents. Instead, she adopts a cute beagle puppy named Lou. Now, Lou has to be recruited and trained for this critical mission. In the process, he is shown a video of the history of cats and dogs, and how cats subjected the Egyptians to slavery until the dogs freed the Egyptians. After this lesson, Lou asks, “Who are the Egyptians?”
Meanwhile, the evil Mr. Tinkles, a cat, is organizing his takeover of the world. He sends in a group of ninja cats to destroy Dr. Brody’s laboratory. Through dumb luck, Lou overcomes them, with the help of a couple of the other dog agents. Next, Mr. Tinkles sends in a Russian cat who appears to be a sweet little pussycat until he goes manic trying to accomplish his goal.
Anyway, the plot goes on and on with very little character development and no understanding of thematic structure. The filmmakers attempt to hold the audience’s attention by raising the level of violence in each scene and punctuating it with a constant barrage of dog and cat scatological humor.
The little children seemed to stop laughing at the beginning of the movie. These killer cats were some of the most frightening creatures ever to be seen in the history of family movies. Therefore, the movie is unacceptable for children in the imagination stage of development from 3 to 7, and problematic for children in the concrete stage from 7 to 11. Teenagers may enjoy parts of this movie, but it’s doubtful if teenagers are going to flock to the movie because advertising seems to be skewed to children.
The advertising, by the way, tries to make this movie look cute and cuddly. It is not. It is dark and frightening.
The special effects are serviceable, but not always seamless. The acting is often over-the-top. Jeff Goldblum has done the mad, environmentally conscious scientist once too often. The plot points are predictable, and the emotional moments often use tired cliches, such as the dad forgetting to take his son to his soccer try-out.
When, by the way, are we going to have a family movie where the father is not going to be portrayed as the problem? From the movies that have been coming out recently, one would surmise that all the problems of the world come from workaholic fathers. Hollywood needs to come up with a better plot device.
Frankly, it seems as if the filmmakers did not have much of a plot in mind. Somebody probably joked about fighting like dogs and cats, and then the screenwriters had to expand this pitch into an hour and a half movie. Of course, this is giving the filmmakers the benefit of the doubt. If this movie started with a script, then there is something seriously wrong in the entertainment industry.
Many family films such as ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE and INSPECTOR GADGET have suffered from a careless attitude toward crafting the script. CATS AND DOGS gets lower marks than these other movies because the other movies at least tried to be family friendly and avoid frightening the children.