A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Cats & Dogs is a 2001 comedy in which talking cats and dogs wage war in a variety of cartoonish and over-the-top ways. The humor is often puerile if not flat-out gross: In addition to dog flatulence, cats flinging kitty litter, dog rear end sniffing, and toilet water drinking, a cat gets a puppy in trouble by unveiling a large and disgusting dog poop and plopping it on the entryway rug of the puppy's owners. (The puppy minutes later refers to the feces as a "steamer.") Cat lovers might not be too keen on the depictions of cats as being the embodiment of pure evil. Some children may be upset about an elderly character on life support, especially when his condition is used for comedy. A boy is sad when his dog disappears, and is reluctant to make friends with a replacement. The movie is mildly sexist -- although one of the spy dogs is female, she is not a part of the team, and the message that goes out to the spy dogs is prefaced with "gentlemen." A boy's feelings are hurt when he does so badly at soccer try-outs (off screen) that the coach suggests that he try out for the girls' team. The constant gags and violence -- reminiscent of old Warner Brothers cartoons but combined with the bombast of Michael Bay-style action movies -- negate any attempt at positive messages on the importance of family or the loving bond that can develop between dogs and their human caretakers.
What's the story?
Back in the days of ancient Egypt, cats ruled. But with the help of dogs, humans took over, and cats have been trying to regain their position ever since. An evil rogue cat named Mr. Tinkles has a plot to foil the development of an injection that would cure allergies to dogs. If he can get the formula, reverse its effects, and expose every human in the world to it, then everyone would become allergic to dogs, and cats could take over.
Is it any good?
CATS AND DOGS is silly fun, a throwback to the classic Disney days of The Absent-Minded Professor and The Shaggy Dog. It moves along swiftly thanks to a brief running time (less than 90 minutes) and spectacularly seamless special effects work. It also benefits from outstanding voice talents: Tobey Maguire (Lou, the young pup called upon to save the world), Alec Baldwin (Butch, the senior agent, using some of the same world-weary courage and avuncular twinkle that he gave to James Dolittle in Pearl Harbor), and Susan Sarandon (kind-hearted canine femme fatale Ivy), as the good guys, and Sean Hayes (enjoying the role of evil villain Mr. Tinkles), and Jon Lovitz (his sidekick) as bad guys. Live-action duties are undertaken with good spirits by Elizabeth Perkins, Jeff Goldblum, and Miriam Margolyes, who does a funny twist on her role as the nurse in the Leonardo DiCaprio version of Romeo and Juliet.
All of this is aimed at 8-year-olds, so expect some PG-rated litter box humor, a couple of mild references to whether a male dog has been fixed, and a lot of slapstick pratfalls and head-bonks -- always a hit with kids. They'll also get a special kick out of the ninja cats (with a now-obligatory Matrix joke). There are a couple of good moments for parents, too, including a dog who explains that she is not homeless, just "domestically challenged," a canine news commentator named (of course) Wolf Blitzer, and having the dogs read the Miranda warning to thousands of arrested mice. The movie comes down on the side of loyalty and families. And Mr. Tinkles' punishment is both funny and (literally) fitting.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about movies with talking animals. How are dogs and cats shown to behave in this movie? How does it compare to other "talking animal" movies?
Families can also talk about Ivy's comment, "Sometimes mad is just a way of hiding how sad you are." Have you ever felt this way?
How is the violence of cartoons and cartoonish movies different from the violence of more serious and realistic movies?
For kids who love animals
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