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' received two Blu-ray releases day and date with the DVD, the only difference being the inclusion of a 3D disc in the 3D set. The first pressings of this set include a lenticular cover (which varies from the 3D release, and actually has two images), and a DVD disc and Digital Copy slip. The Blu-ray disc is a Region A/B/C BD25 disc. Unlike the 3D release, this Blu-ray has three pre-menu trailers.
The 2D release of 'Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore' is given a 1.85:1 1080p AVC MPEG-4 encode that has a bit more visual appeal than its 3D counterpart. In essence, it exchanges one set of problems for another, but the end result looks a bit better here.
Colors are bold and vibrant, edges are clean, with amazing stray hair/whisker pop, and black levels are frequently pitch perfect. The whites of eyes and teeth are 100 percent pure and pearly, without a hint of tint to be found, while the fur on the random critters stands out with great definition. Detail levels are very strong, for the most part.
All that said, there are some random bits of ugly that drag this one down to reality. While the majority of the film doesn't have any aliasing issues, there are a few scenes (the cell phone scene outside the boat in the second act) that are rampant with them. Softness can randomly creep up, particularly in some of the CG shots, which sometimes don't match the lighting of the scene they're for on top of being a hint soft, standing out for the wrong reason. While the grain level for the most part is perfectly reasonable, there are a few random ugly splotchy moments that make no sense. A few textures are questionable, particularly Mr. Tinkles' fur, and clearly lack definition, but said issues may be a problem inherent in the film due to its effects work. I got a great great kick out of the iridescence in Seamus' feathers, though there are a few moments when it seems locked in, rather than natural and ever-shifting. My last complaint, I swear, has to do with some inconsistencies when it comes to the tint of fur, and some skin tones, but there may be outside elements (and again, special effects on the animals) that create said problems. The laundry list of booboos sounds awfully big compared to the transfer's strengths, but these are all minor issues, and they don't really detract from the experience all that much. This release hasn't been playing fetch with the ugly stick, but it did run into a few trees along the way. Head first.
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:
'Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore' wore out its welcome in my home on its first viewing. The second go round, this time in 2D? Equally annoying. I apologize to all the parents who not only had to pay for this film, but also have to hear it every few days for a month before accidentally dropping the disc in the shredder. I did try to warn you. This 2D release has slightly better video, the same audio and supplements, though one has been dropped back down from 3D to 2D. It may still be worth a look based on its technical strength, but it may be a painful look.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.