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Cats and Dogs (December 8/01)

There are movies intended solely for kids and movies intended for kids but also enjoyable for adults. Cats and Dogs falls into the former category.

The star of the movie isn't any one actor; rather, it's a gaggle of special effects wizardry that dominate the film. And as we all learned with Godzilla, special effects will get you to a certain point - and then a script of some kind is actually required. That's not to say Cats and Dogs doesn't have a certain kind of charm going for it - the titular animals are quite cute and the humans are appropriately wacky - but the flimsy story just isn't beefy enough to sustain a 90-minute movie.

Jeff Goldblum stars as an absent-minded professor who's hot on the trail of a cure for allergies to dogs. His wife (played by Elizabeth Perkins) has just bought a little puppy for their son but unbeknownst to the three of them, there's a secret war brewing right underneath their noses. See, the cats are very concerned about this canine allergy vaccine, so they're trying to do whatever it takes to ensure that Goldblum doesn't complete his task. Now the new puppy has to be taken under the wing of an experienced group of dogs that have been busily patrolling the area, keeping it safe for Goldblum and family.

Initially, it seems as though Cats and Dogs is going to be a silly yet entertaining flick involving lots of special effects and a good proportion of celebrity voices. And for a while, it delivers (strictly on that level, of course). The special effects are indeed a lot of fun (the ninja cats are especially impressive) and the various celebs that provide voices are perfectly cast (Alec Baldwin as the grizzled veteran of the canines, Jon Lovitz as a smarmy cat, etc). And that's all well and good - for about the first 20-minutes or so. After that point, the eye-popping special effects wear out their welcome and the novelty of hearing Michael Clarke Duncan voice a shaggy dog dissipates. There's no doubt children will love the movie all the way through, but adults will likely find themselves looking for a fast exit after the novelty of seeing animals talk and fight wears off.

And that's all the movie is, really - a novelty. Movies that utilize cutting-edge special effects as their driving force almost always fail - flicks like Godzilla, Armageddon, etc. - unless they've got a killer script propping the thing up. Cats and Dogs, while incredible to look at, just doesn't become anything more than eye candy.

out of

© David Nusair