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Archive for Wednesday, July 4, 2001

Cats & Dogs’ proves to be pets-tacular fun

July 4, 2001

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Payback's a well, a female dog, in "Cats & Dogs."

Dogs utilize high-tech surveillance equipment to strike back when cats launch a plan to steal a scientific formula to combat dog allergies, a formula that would ensure dogs' popularity forever. Led by a vicious, sarcastic Persian named Mr. Tinkles (with the voice of Sean Hayes of "Will and Grace"), the feline coup is sort of a "Mission: Impawsible," featuring a highly trained team of Siamese ninjas and a squadron of mindlessly evil mice.

Consistently amusing and sometimes hilarious, "Cats & Dogs" uses animatronics and computer animation, much like "Babe," to pull off a convincing illusion of animals talking, playing and waging war. It is at its funniest when the jokes spin off of recognizable animal behavior. For instance, when one dog gets into a special canine rocket sled, he zips along at high speed with his head stuck out the side window. When a battalion of dogs won't shut up, their leader knows exactly how to get their attention: He opens a can of Alpo.

And we get to eavesdrop on pooches in their private moments, complaining about humans ("We protect them, we tolerate that stupid boojie-boojie crap, and for what?").

Most of the best gags have to do with the dogs, which may irritate felinophiles. Man's second-best friends are depicted as sneaky and devious (dog lovers, of course, have thought this all along), but cat fanciers can take heart in the fact that the best character in "Cats & Dogs" is a kitty, albeit an evil one.

With his Eartha-Kitt-but-even-scarier purr, Hayes is a riot as Mr. Tinkles, coming up with all sorts of inventive ways to use his voice to express contempt and, finally, humiliation. Almost as good is Alec Baldwin's clipped, militaristic dog leader ("You think this is a game? You think this is fun?"), which is almost exactly the same role he plays in "Pearl Harbor."

There are a few draggy moments, most of them having to do with the routine human characters, whom I see I've forgotten to mention. Whoops.

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