3D has become the newest craze in Hollywood to boost box office receipts, it seems, because there are a large amount of films being converted into the format after not being shot in it originally. It’s led to films like the remakes of Clash of the Titans and Alice in Wonderland, as well as anime-turned cinematic nightmare The Last Airbender, having inflated box office numbers despite the transition from normal to 3D leaving the film looking dark and hard to follow. So by sheer proxy of being shot in 3D, Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore might be the best presentation of the format since Avatar. Not that it’s a good film, in fact it’s slightly above average, but it manages to use the medium of 3D effectively enough to justify the extra ticket price.
In a world where cats and dogs not only talk but also actively work against one another in a sort of “spy meets spy” conflict, Cats and Dogs 2 is a sequel to the surprise hit Cats & Dogs in name only. With an almost entirely new cast of characters, and a voice cast that has changed radically, this feels more like a reboot than a true sequel. The film follows a mismatched pair of spies trying to save the world from a shaved cat (Bette Midler). Butch (Nick Nolte) is the old grizzled vet partnered with SFPD K-9 washout Diggs (James Marsden) to stop her from unleashed a doomsday weapon that would allow her to enslave the world. They’re joined by a cat (Christina Applegate) as the two species join forces to prevent a mutually destructive conclusion.
Using the 3D format, the film doesn’t have the visual problems that many others have had because it originally was shot to be shown in the format and as such Brad Peyton doesn’t have a lot of fancy camera tricks or quick edits to use. There are a lot of long tracking shots and extended sequences using a single camera, done for the sake of the format but giving the film a much different look than a lot of other family fare. The film isn’t dim or dark because of it, allowing what was used to replicate San Francisco to come alive.
Cats & Dogs 2 may be rated G but it’s designed to riff on two distinct genres: the mismatched buddy cop film and the spy thriller. Cribbing from Casino Royale early on stylistically, as well as imitating that film’s opening credit animations, the film manages to retain just enough to keep the occasion light enough for children while also having an appeal to adults. There are enough cutesy moments for the kids, like when Diggs is mobbed by a group of kittens wanting to play with him, to balance out some of the more amusing sequences adults will enjoy (like a group of cats under the influence of catnip doing their best Cheech and Chong impression).
The film’s focus is on Butch and Diggs and their Lethal Weapon style partnership, amusing enough since that film cribbed and refined the formula directly from 48 Hours which starred Nolte. Diggs is reckless and tries to do everything on his own while Butch is trying to teach him the value of teamwork and partnership in order to be a better canine operative. It’s a clichéd but effective storyline for both characters but isn’t done well enough to make the film special, just merely adequate.
Cats& Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore isn’t brilliant entertainment, nor does it try to be, but it is an accomplishment in that it uses 3D significantly more effectively than any other film in 2010.
Director: Brad Peyton Notable Cast: Christina Applegate, Michael Clarke Duncan, Neil Patrick Harris, Sean Hayes, James Marsden, Bette Midler, Nick Nolte, Joe Pantoliano, Katt Williams, Chris O’Donnell, Jack McBrayer, Fred Armisen, Paul Rodriguez Writer(s): Ron J Friedman, Steve Bencich, John Requa, Glenn Ficarra