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Cats & Dogs

Warner Bros./Roadshow Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 84 mins . PG . PAL


It seems that everybody is either a cat person or a dog person. Some admire the independent nature of the feline – they’ll hang around when food is in the offing, or if they decide that they need a cuddle for (on average) 35 seconds before bounding off your lap, but don't require every single last drop of your attention. Others prefer the loyal nature of the canine – faithful to the end, no matter how much of a prick you may be to all others around you - but also incredibly demanding of your time - I mean, they can't even walk themselves! Well, if you’re in the former camp then it’s my duty to inform you that you’re rootin’ for the bad guys here...

They’re all just dumb animals, right? Well, Cats & Dogs spills the beans and exposes the real story, as in actual fact both species are a lot more highly developed and technologically advanced than we give them credit for. For behind the scenes, when we’re sleeping, out of the house or in any other way simply not within eyeshot, they’re waging a full scale war against each other, all in order to gain supremacy in the human race’s affections. Well, at least according to this movie...

Get set for the story of a boy named Scott, his beagle Lou (short for “Loser”) and his father, Professor Brody (Jeff Goldblum), a completely driven social misfit (or, alternatively, a science geek), who’s severely allergic to dogs and working pretty much day and night in his basement laboratory on an antidote – much to the chagrin of his wife and son in the attention stakes. If he succeeds the woofers will have a distinct advantage in their battle with the cats in maintaining their status as man’s (or woman’s!) best friends. However, the cats have learned of Brody’s work, are hardly happy about it at all, and have set out to scupper his labour in their bid to gain supremacy – led by a somewhat maniacal Persian with the rather severely un-despotic name of Mr Tinkles.

"Evil does NOT wear a bonnet!"

The cats have all manner of technology at their disposal – skydiving ninja kitties armed with laser-targeting and moves straight out of The Matrix, cute as a button Russian pusses who double as deadly bomb experts and more. However, as dopey as they may appear, the dogs are hardly behind the eight ball in the high-tech stakes either – with Pekinese computer nerds, rocket sled passages all over town and even their own doggy U.N.

The aim of the cats is to get hold of the formula and reverse it – rendering the entire human race allergic to dogs and thus putting them in the affection box seat. Will they succeed, or will new secret agent recruit Lou and his cohorts – the just-the-facts-ma’am Butch, the domestically challenged Ivy, Sam the somewhat slow sheepdog et al – defeat Mr Tinkles and his army of purr-iors and save the day for doggy-kind?

Combining real animals with often startling CGI effects and animatronics courtesy of the Jim Henson Creature Workshop, Cats & Dogs is a good-natured and incredibly fun romp perfect for kiddies of any age. Director Lawrence Guterman has managed to pull off that which on paper may have sounded a challenge that couldn’t be achieved – making everything here so believable looking (running with the assumption that you are able to suspend belief enough to deal with talking pups and kitties, naturally) that you can just sit back and be entertained by almost one and a half hours of just plain silly entertainment – with a handful of Hollywood schmaltz thrown in for good (?) measure.

Credit must also go to the cast, however. While the humans are perfectly suited to their roles, it is many of the voice actors that truly make Cats & Dogs work as well as it does. Teen-flick alumni Tobey Maguire does a surprisingly good job as the thrown-into-the-deep-end Lou, Will and Grace’s Sean Hayes wreaks delightful havoc as Mr Tinkles, and smaller roles from the likes of Susan Sarandon, Alec Baldwin, Joe Pantolino and even Charlton Heston all help this silly, but pleasingly entertaining, story shine.


Forgive me, please, however it must be said – this is essentially a purr-fect transfer. What can be said against it? Well, one small and brief white speck was noticed throughout the entirety of the film, and although the layer change is placed on a still part of the film, the sound disappearing momentarily makes it rather noticeable. Really that’s about it for the downside.

Otherwise, this 16x9 enhanced 1.78:1 transfer (the DVD case says it’s 1.85:1, however...) is fantastic. There are many often extremely vivid colours on show, and these are all rendered in a gorgeously realistic fashion, giving us a sumptuous look to all that’s on offer without any tendency towards over-saturation. There are a lot of dark scenes, but pfft – they pose no problem with superb contrast and shadow detail on offer. Likewise detail in general is spot-on, as evidenced by most any shot of any of the flick’s furry stars, all wonderfully hairy without any sign of softness or blurring. Su-paw-b!


Great news is that the audio track performs as well as the audio. The only option is a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, and really nothing more is necessary. The film throws all manner of booms, bangs, bombs and rockets at us, all of which are lobbed around the room making fabulous use of the surround channels. Appropriately the subwoofwoof gets quite a bit of action, rockin’ da house delightfully on many an occasion. Within all this chaos, dialogue levels are nicely balanced, and lip-synch – well, we’re talking CGI and animatronic characters here, so the pedants out there may have some issues, however suffice to say all the human talent’s mouths move precisely when they are supposed to.

Soundtrack-wise, the score is provided by John Debney. He faces the challenge of conjuring up everything from 007 meets Mission: Impossible styled dramatic compositions to abject schmaltz more than ably. Sure, it may not be particularly original, but it does what a score should do – and that’s suiting the movie it’s attached to down to a tee. In what is quite a departure for a modern day film, there is only one “pop” song that shows up. This is during the end credits, and is a certain track by Tom Jones that I won’t bother naming as it would be fair to say it’s kind of obvious. So, no Hound Dog by that guy who dug scarfing hamburgers to redress the balance then? Bloody favouritism!


It’s nice to see some fun being had with the menus on this disc, with an option coming up for “cats” or “dogs”, taking you to whichever chosen species’ headquarters. The only difference either selection makes is as to the theme of the quite wonderful animated, music-enhanced menu that comes up (either feline or canine), and the extremely dubious “hidden features” to be found in the features menu, which are so blatantly obvious that if you somehow manage to miss them means you’re dumber than dog sh...

Cast and crew: Simply two pages listing, as you may expect, cast and crew. No bios or filmographies are included.

Featurette - The Making of Cats & Dogs: A full frame 13:55 HBO special hosted by Sean Hayes (the voice of Mr Tinkles). Clips from the film and interview snippets are included with human stars such as Jeff Goldblum and Elizabeth Perkins, meowing or woofing stars such as Tobey Maguire and Susan Sarandon, plus the usual collection of producers, directors and effects people. Although brief, some interesting segments showing behind the scenes stuff such as voice recording, computer effects, live animal training and some of the Jim Henson Creature Shop’s animatronics are featured, making this a cut above the usual plug, plug, plug pap.

Storyboard comparisons: Running for 2:52, two windows are featured – one with storyboard sketches, the other with final film scenes – and all on a severely lurid bright green background.

Featurette - Teaching a New Dog New Tricks: Clocking in at a mere six minutes, this full frame featurette concentrates on the real animals that starred in the film, with interview snippets featuring the producers, director and animal trainers.

Theatrical trailer: A brief, 1:06 teaser presented in a ratio of 1.78:1 and anamorphically enhanced. It only has Dolby Digital Stereo sound though.

Cat “hidden features”: In the first features menu, select the death ball thingy and a fabulous bonus treat for lovers of bad puns everywhere awaits. Featuring a Star Wars-styled intro, we get to witness Mr Tinkles’ screen tests for a number of classic films - Catsablanca, On the Litterfront, Apocalypse Meow, C2: The Catinator, Furriest Gump and The Sixth Scratch.

Selecting the cat logo in the second features menu leads to a rather fun 1 minute and 18 second blatant piece of promotional programming for the cat side of things, including Mr Tinkles’ views on the state of cinema today.

Dog “hidden features”: Opt for the bone-type thingy on the first features screen and fifteen concept sketches featuring characters and weapons are displayed.

Pressing ‘enter’ on the dog logo on the second features screen brings up a “dogs rule”-type 56 second clip collage.

DVD ROM extras: Those equipped for it can pop this disc into their ‘puter and access a number of bonus goodies. There’s an alternate ending to the film in Quicktime format that may have cat lovers feeling a bit more pleased about how things panned out, artwork galleries, cat and dog oriented screen savers, a little diversion to create secret identities for your own pets using their photos, and the inevitable link to the movie website.

Dolby Digital trailer : The “I think I can, I think I can” one...

It must be noted that we don't get the commentary track that the region 1 disc contained, featuring the director Larry Guterman, actor Sean Hayes, producer Chris Defaria and production designer James Bissel. Why is it that we always miss out on the commentaries that sound more interesting than your standard, run of the mill ones?


In all this is a terrific little package that offers some fabulous, relatively wholesome, family entertainment that actually lives up to the tag for a change – there’s plenty of admittedly often extremely silly entertainment here for young and old, some of which does that old working on two levels trick that classics such as Rocky and Bullwinkle or The Simpsons manage(d) with seeming great ease, plus a number of references to other films to keep people on their toes. DVD-wise, visually things are nothing short of superb, the audio is top notch and the collection of extras is enough to keep you entertained for quite a while after the film has faded from memory.

So be advised – the next time Fido or Socks looks (seemingly) adoringly deep into your eyes just remember, there may be a lot more going on in their minds than simply “feed me”.

Fang you very much (uh huh)...

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      And I quote...
    "The next time Fido or Socks looks (seemingly) adoringly deep into your eyes just remember, there may be a lot more going on in their minds than simply “feed me”..."
    - Amy Flower
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DV-535
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
    • Receiver:
          Onkyo TX-DS494
    • Speakers:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse RBS662
    • Centre Speaker:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECC442
    • Surrounds:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECR042
    • Subwoofer:
          DTX Digital 4.8
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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