Warner Brothers thought it had an all-ages hit with Cats & Dogs, generating a huge buzz by bumping it forward from a late-summer release to the July 4th weekend. Even though it made almost 100 million dollars, the truth about Cats & Dogs is that it doesn't have much for either adults or kids, and anyone who prefers cats will be mighty miffed that their guys were cast as the unrepentant villains. The intriguing idea of outfitting pets in high-tech spy gear and walking them through labyrinthine control centers never quite works. When they use the real animals, it looks like a big game of dress-up out of the pages of Cat Fancy, and when they use CGI, the crude digital effects transform the creatures into grotesque cartoons. The lip synching is especially poor, given the far superior effects two years earlier in Stuart Little and a full six years earlier in Babe. In those films, the animals behaved more or less like animals; here, as they execute kung-fu moves and dozens of other feats requiring opposable thumbs, they stretch the technology to absurdity. The facial expressions are the most bizarre, with patently artificial eyeballs grafted onto real fur. Worse yet is that the script contains nary a laugh; though the animals themselves can't convey much embarrassment about this, it comes through in spades from the human actors (Jeff Goldblum and Elizabeth Perkins, shamelessly slumming for a paycheck). No one can fault the producers for trying to imagine the inner workings of the uneasy Cold War that governs the world's oldest rivalry. They just didn't have the tools, or the writers, to pull it off.
by Derek Armstrong review