2001's 'Cats & Dogs' was one of those films I just never bothered to pick up. Released ten years earlier, it might have caught my attention, but at that point in my life, watching talking animals in a spy spoof just wasn't something I was jumping up and down for, particularly since the 'Mission Impossible' and Pierce Brosnan Bond series were both still alive and kicking, feeding what little need for spy thrillers I had. With that in mind, I landed the fun assignment of covering 'Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore,' and I had to ask myself: Who exactly was this "Kitty Galore," and what did he/she have done to him/her that would give he/she the need to take out revenge? Was I missing out on some important plot from the original film? Would the excruciatingly nuanced characters fly over my head (possibly even literally)? Would I be so lost in the story that I'd have to eject the disc, run to the video store, and check out the original first?
Thankfully, that wasn't the case. I was in luck: this is one tale of talking cats and dogs that didn't require any knowledge of the series, aside from the fact that it, well, featured talking cats and dogs, as well as other furry critters. Having been exposed to conversing critters my entire life, through various films and cartoons (not real life!), I was juuuuust qualified enough to give an opinion on this one, thank goodness. After all, how would any of you have gone to sleep not knowing how good a film was, when it had the gripping tag line "Just like real spies...only furrier." Was this a film that only made back half its cost due to the fact it far too complex and brooding, or was it merely what everyone else is thinking by now, just a hair brained sequel produced merely for the sake of extending a series that didn't have so much support as to demand a sequel in the first place, save for the fact that it actually made money?
A mad cat has been assembling (ahem, stealing) random pieces of technology from the most advanced sources, to build a machine capable of driving all dogs insane through its super high pitch, so that man's best friend won't be able to defend them against the malicious and evil duplicitous cats waiting to make mankind their slaves. This villain has given the dogs of the world just two days to stop her, before forever being thrown in kennels and left to be unloved and forgotten. But the dogs won't go down without a fight, as Butch, new recruit Diggs, and the rest of the dog spy agents work against time to find out exactly who this "Kitty Galore" is, and stop her for good. They're not alone in their quest, as the feline spy Catherine, and the rest of her spy agency, MEOWS, the former employers of the evil Galore, work with their longtime enemy for the greater good.
Far be it for me to criticize a sequel having never seen the original, especially when I'm far from being in the target audience for the film...but I'm going to do it anyways. There is no way, absolutely no possible way for this film to have been amazing. This is a cash-in, pure and simple, a family film made purely to bank off the success of a silly, almost forgotten property in order to attempt to elicit the same results.
I'm still not quite sure what to think of this experience. It just doesn't make sense. Why would any casting director, producer, director, or anyone else involved in the creation of the film want to make a film where the best talents are only heard, never seen, while the likes of Chris O'Donnell (one of the people responsible for the ruining of the original 'Batman' film series) and Jack McBrayer ('30 Rock,' 'Talladega Nights') are the only human faces we see the entire time? Before viewing this film, if you had told me that Neil Patrick Harris, James Marsden, Christina Applegate, Wallace Shawn, Michael Clarke Duncan, Joe Pantoliano, and Nick Nolte, and their mixed bag of talents, had to play voice roles in a film, while those two actually did the physical acting, I would have put money on it being a drunken studio bet, or a lark to try to lure out the fanatical movie nerdboy in me to lash out against such a horrific idea. Yet...here it is.
I still don't get having celebrity cast voice crews, save for when the actor has a great, unique voice (Harris or Shawn, for example), but I do have to admit I liked the voice acting casting here. Marsden does a great job as the over-enthusiastic police dog-turned-secret agent, while comedian Katt Williams brings his one dimensional pigeon character Seamus to life. There's even a fun little poke at the 007 franchise, with the casting of Sir Roger Moore as Tab Lazenby, the head of MEOWS, one of the best of many allusions and references to the quintessential spy series, perhaps the best part of the film, really. Meanwhile, O'Donnell and McBrayer, you guessed it, stink up the place.
I've never watched a film this short (82 minutes) that felt this long before (and we won't count 'Jonah Hex,' as that one hardly deserves to be called a film). The pace of this film just drags and drags, leaving me to wonder how the short-attention-span target audience would cope, as even the novelty of talking cats and dogs would surely wears thin and lose even the most pet-crazy toddler the way it is done here. Sure, early on, us adults get a few treats and nods, scratches behind our ears, but don't be fooled, it's just a trap as they're buttering you up before throwing you in the carrier and taking you off to the vet to perform a certain surgery that rhymes with tutoring.
If you have children and want to keep them occupied with the newest film aimed towards their little impressionable minds, you could do worse, really. Still, there are way too many films out there that cater to children while also giving adults an enjoyable experience, and 'Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore' hardly cares about adult audiences. Sure, a Hannibal Lecter reference here and there is always nice, and there are some nice touches and minor sight gags that breathe the slightest bit of hope into the film early on, but be warned: the real plot of Kitty Galore is to rot your brain as you sit, numbed to the pain, in front of this film. Cats and dogs may have to work together to save the day, but this is one of those times where you get to rely on the fact that you make the purchasing decisions in your household and hope your child forgets this film exists.
The Disc: Vital Stats
'Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore 3D' is among the first wave of Warner Bros. Blu-ray 3D titles. Having seen their roll out, I'm not quite sure the studio knows exactly what they're doing. Each and every one of the six WB 3D titles are advertised as being 2D and 3D friendly, though the manner in which they do this varies from release to release.
'Kitty Galore' is the only day and date release of the wave, and as such, it gets the most loaded release: a three disc set, with the 2D Blu-ray (BD25), 3D Blu-ray (BD50), and a DVD/Digital Copy disc, housed in a standard thickness case, while a nice attractive lenticular card (who am I kidding, it makes the furry critters move like the creatures in 'Jacob's Ladder!') adorns the slipcover. The art between the 2D and 3D releases of this film vary, making it easy to tell which is which on shelves. It also helps differentiate between the two that many stores will only carry the 2D.
There is no pre-menu content on the 3D disc of this release (the same cannot be said about the 2D edition), which features a static screen (with 3D menu buttons), and a not-too-annoying audio loop. Additionally, there is no way to play the 3D disc on a non-3D setup, as it will cause a pop up informing you that it is 3D only. No selling the extra disc on this release, no sir!
'Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore 3D' isn't the best looking 3D title to date, possibly due to the fact that it is a 2D to 3D converted film, much like 'Clash of the Titans (2010).' Still, Warner did a pretty good job on this Blu-ray 3D release, with a 1080p 1.85:1 framed transfer.
The 3D use in the film is a mixture of the traditional gimmick "in your face" and the modern enhanced depth of picture, and the combination works quite nicely here. Depth of picture is rarely a problem, while the moments where items leap out at the screen all feature great clarity and no technical failures. Daytime or nighttime moments share the same strengths and weaknesses, unlike some other releases when the difference literally was night and day. Detail levels remain incredibly strong, though the furthest back, deepest backgrounds do sometimes have a slight smudge. Textures are incredible, with so many life-like creatures and settings just coming alive on this release. Black levels are mostly superb and dripping in ink (while still maintaining the detail in the shadows), though a few shots in the film do have a pitiful, sloppy look due to the blacks taking a break and just mailing it in (check out the chase sequence, when it gets in the building for an example of this). Brightness levels are never a problem, while skin tones on the few human characters are quite accurate.
Ghosting, ah ghosting, I really hate you. It would be nice to sit through a Blu-ray 3D review and not see fragments of effects off to the side, or inside the effect, but that hasn't happened to me yet, and this release doesn't change that. Some of the ghosting can be near impossible to miss, as early on, any vertical object in quite a few shots would have a ghost nearly matching its thickness. Heck, get past that first shot, and check out the security guard's shoulder patch. Ghost-a-riffic. It doesn't let up, either, as just random scenes suffer. The credits for the film, even, have what looks more like a ghost than an intentionally layered look. Much like the depth of the 3D effects themselves, ghosting is hit or miss, and can really pull you out of the experience. As if talking spy cats and dogs already didn't do that to you already...
This release is not a catastrophe, but doggone it, I still do demand a bit more than this when shelling out the extra money for 3D content.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix provided 'Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore 3D' rivals the one found for the 2D release. In a word...great.
Dialogue is centered and rarely is found anywhere else, but I can't complain too much when every word is crystal clear. Rears get way more activity than I would have anticipated out of a kid's flick, from the score creeping through the room, to some sound localization, and superb movement (particularly in the air chase, it's a hoot!). Room dynamics are perfect, range is unchecked, and atmospheric effects, while sometimes a bit too light for crowded scenes, put you in the room with these furry felines and fidos. Bass levels do get bumping, though the larger explosions in the film do lack that extra punch I'd prefer, to make them match the visual strength of the ka-boom. It's not a demo-worthy release, but for the genre, it's pretty much one of the best sounding releases to date.
There are also additional language options on this 3D disc that the 2D version does not have, for Korean and Chinese consumers.
2D Blu-ray disc:
Sure, numerous roles have been recast. Sure, the only live action actors are possibly the worst ones of the lot. Sure, this sequel didn't need to exist, but it does. The Blu-ray 3D release of 'Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore' features good but problematic video, great audio, and a seriously annoying load of extras, save for the 3D Looney Tunes short found on the 3D disc. Right now, with so few 3D titles on the market, this one earns a look, but it is easily one of the least inspired films put on the format so far (that is until 'Yogi Bear' hits home video!) . I'd rather have the option to buy this, than no choice in the matter at all, though.