With the voices of James Marsden, Nick Nolte, Bette Midler, Christina Applegate, Neil Patrick Harris. Directed by Brad Peyton. Rated PG for animal action and humor. 82 minutes.
It’s nine years since “Cats & Dogs” and you probably don’t even remember what it was about, do you? Does it even matter? The third graders who enjoyed it back then have since graduated from high school and they’re presumably no longer the target audience for CATS & DOGS: THE REVENGE OF KITTY GALORE. No, it’s a new generation, who may or may not have seen the original, who will be seeing this one and, in spite of the title, who will not be questioning the backstory here.
The premise is that cats and dogs are part of rival spy networks who try to protect humanity without letting people know that they can talk, have flying packs, or operate out of secret underground headquarters. Diggs (voiced by James Marsden) is a police dog with a discipline problem who finds himself recruited to help battle the maniacal Kitty Galore (Bette Midler), a hairless cat who has a scheme to drive all dogs in the world mad and then take over. Diggs finds himself teamed with Butch (Nick Nolte) and then having to join forces with a cat agent Catherine (Christina Applegate) in order to track down the bad cats.
As that brief description ought to make clear, it is all very silly and very much geared to the youngsters who will find the notion of animals talking to each other and having secret identities endlessly amusing. For the adults who have to accompany them there are the various movie references and “in jokes” like a den of cats high on catnip or the reappearance of Mr. Tinkles (Sean Hayes), a takeoff of Anthony Hopkins in “Silence Of The Lambs.” No one will confuse this with great comedy although, to acknowledge some genuine creativity, the starting credit sequence is wonderful spoof of the classic James Bond openings.
It says something that the best part of the show isn’t even part of the movie itself – it’s the 3D “Road Runner” cartoon that precedes the feature. Although they make the mistake of making Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner three dimensional as well, instead of giving us their traditional cel animation look, it is a funny bit slapstick that should entertain viewers of all ages.
In the main feature, the 3D is useless except for the opening credits and in a computer animated sequence where Butch and Diggs take a speedy trip underground to the spy dogs’ headquarters. The rest of the animation, including some of the animals, is strictly hit or miss. The live action cast is mostly along for the ride, such as Chris O’Donnell as Diggs’ human partner, and cameos by Fred Armisen and Paul Rodriguez. There’s is a certain wit in casting Roger Moore as the British voice of the head of the cat secret service.
Still, if you measure your age in more than single digits, you can give the new “Cats & Dogs” a miss. At this rate, the original viewers may be bringing their kids to the third one.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being I’ll Have What She’s Having: Behind The Scenes Of The Great Romantic Comedies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville.