[Screen It]

(2010) (voices of James Marsden, Nick Nolte) (PG)

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Comedy/Action: Dog spies team up with a feline secret agent to thwart an evil cat from emitting a worldwide signal that will drive canines mad.
Diggs (voice of JAMES MARSDEN) is the hotshot canine partner of Shane (CHRIS O'DONNELL), a San Francisco cop. When Diggs' undisciplined heroics result in a car dealership being blown up, Shane is forced to put Diggs in a kennel where he is recruited by an elite secret society of dog spies and partnered with the gruff Butch (voice of NICK NOLTE).

Their mission is to stop the evil Kitty Galore (voice of BETTE MIDLER), who has threatened to use the Earth's satellites to relay a signal around the world that will drive dogs mad and attack their owners. With mankind turned against man's best friend, cats will once again rule the Earth.

Eventually, the dogs form an uneasy alliance with a competing spy organization consisting entirely of cats led by Tab Lazenby (voice of ROGER MOORE) and Catherine (CHRISTINA APPLEGATE). Together, they team with a wisecracking pigeon (voice of Katt Williams); try to pick the brain of the jailed criminal mastermind, Mr. Tinkles (voice of SEAN HAYES); and finally do battle with Kitty Galore, who is hiding as the feline sidekick of Chuck (JACK McBRAYER), a carnival magician.

OUR TAKE: 4.5 out of 10
It's hard to believe the first "Cats & Dogs" movie was nine years ago! It was one of those legitimately clever and successful Hollywood high-concept movies that should have gotten a sequel long before now. Too bad it got this one! "Cat & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore" is not a terrible film. But the potential was there for so much more. My honest first reaction after seeing it was, "Nine years, and THAT is the best they can do?!"

Actually, the concept that the Powers That Be came up with was a solid one -- cats and dogs teaming up to work together to stop a common threat: the rogue Kitty Galore (voice of Bette Midler), who has stolen technology from NASA and Bill Gates to build a satellite dish out of a carnival ride that will send a signal out worldwide that will turn all dogs against their owners. Vampires and werewolves teaming up in the recent "Twilight" movie worked. Those times James Bond had to team up with a hot Russian agent worked. This should have worked, too.

The problem is, director Brad Peyton and screenwriters Ron J. Friedman and Steve Bencich never really run with the concept. The film feels underdeveloped and "under-imagined." The team up of felines and canines should have been epic. Instead, the battle feels small. It's basically Kitty Galore and one hench-cat going up against two dogs, one cat, and a pigeon. Where are all the different breeds? The crazy combinations? Why insert a dumb, wisecracking bird into the mix?

James Marsden voices the main hero dog, Diggs, a disgraced police canine who is forced into a kennel when he botches an arrest big time. Diggs is recruited into the secret society of spy dogs we met in the first film and partnered with the gruff, no-nonsense Butch (voice of Nick Nolte), to stop Kitty Galore. When it's obvious that Kitty Galore is stark-raving mad, the rival secret-agent cat society assigns Catherine (voice of Christina Applegate) to assist Diggs and Butch. The annoying bird, Seamus (Katt Williams) tags along as a former cohort of Galore's who may or may not have valuable information that could stop her evil plan.

Those who fell in love with the pooches and kitties from the first film will be saddened to learn that those characters are mostly relegated to cameos, including Joe Pantoliano's Peek, Michael Clarke Duncan's sheepdog Sam, and Lou (Neil Patrick Harris takes over for Tobey Maguire). The human family in the first film, which featured Jeff Goldblum and Elizabeth Perkins, are completely absent.

I never mind the addition of new blood in a sequel, but you should at least make the new characters as interesting as the originals. With regards to James Marsden's Diggs, Andy Garcia turned in a more memorable vocal performance of a disgraced police dog in the fairly recent "Beverly Hills Chihuahua." Nolte's Butch is gruff and joyless, and Applegate's Catherine similarly fails to register (she's got nothing on Susie Essman's spunky Mittens from "Bolt"). I expect my animal heroes and heroines to be endearing.

The sequel is not a total wash. The overall concept is still a good one. Roger Moore has great fun voicing the head of the cats' spy organization as a black and white cat whose fur pattern resembles that of a Bondian tuxedo. And God bless the return of Sean Hayes' marvelously wicked Mr. Tinkles, even if it's for just a couple of scenes. Tinkles is imprisoned on Alcatraz in Hannibal Lecter-like restraints in a "Silence of the Lambs"-like jail. Kitty Galore is an OK villainess, but Mr. Tinkles is who swishes my tail.

OK, I have promised myself I won't end this review with any groan-inducing dog or cat puns. No, "this movie is far from purrr-fect" or "not even Tobey Maguire could have cleaned up this mess." I'll simply give it a score. 4.5 Scooby snacks out of 10. (T. Durgin)

Reviewed July 24, 2010 / Posted July 30, 2010

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