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August 8, 2010

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Jokes and fur fly fast and furious

DOGS and cats, living together ... mass hysteria? Maybe not so much.

While these animals were resourceful and well-equipped enemies in the original "Cats & Dogs" from 2001, now they're forced to band together to fight a common foe in the sequel "Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore."

As you can tell from the name, this is a spy send-up, specifically of James Bond movies -- the opening titles alone are super clever, an indication of the kind of eye for detail that is in store throughout -- and from there, the jokes fly fast and furious along with the fur.

Surprisingly, most of them work in the script from Ron J. Friedman and Steve Bencich. But as directed by Brad Peyton, the sequel is a mix of live action, puppetry and computer animation, and the jumbled look is its chief weakness: The animals are cute and all, but the visual effects that suggest they are talking too often look jumpy and fake.

You want your talking-animal movies to be realistic, don't you?

And of course, because it is a family film coming out this summer, it is in 3D.

It probably did not need to be -- it never needs to be.

Still, it is a delightful idea that cats and dogs not only enjoy a rich interior life while adults are away, but also function as highly trained super spies, complete with elaborate gadgetry.

You know you have wondered this yourself about your own furry friends at home.

So you may find yourself laughing the whole way through, even at a takeoff on "The Silence of the Lambs" that has been parodied ad infinitum.

Still, when it is the fluffy, white feline Mr Tinkles strapped up in a cell, wearing that infamous mask and voiced again by Sean Hayes, it adds another layer to the joke that is at once twisted and kind of sweet. This time, the self-styled uber-villain is Kitty Galore, whose hairless appearance is frightening. As voiced with campy menace by the great Bette Midler, she is an over-the-top, diabolical drama queen. But in a good way.

Kitty has a plan to enslave dogs around the world and make cats the true rulers.

To stop her, the secret agents of DOG, led by Lou the beagle (Neil Patrick Harris) and Butch the Anatolian shepherd (Nick Nolte), recruit the overeager German shepherd Diggs (James Marsden), who has been cast off the San Francisco police force for his inability to follow orders.

But they soon realize they have to team up with the underground cat group MEOWS, led by Catherine (Christina Applegate) and her boss, the tuxedoed Tab Lazenby (Roger Moore, a nice touch).

Both teams get help, sort of, from the scatterbrained, fast-talking pigeon Seamus (Katt Williams).

Among the people in "Cats & Dogs," Chris O'Donnell plays Diggs' former police partner and Jack McBrayer plays a magician who is Kitty Galore's unsuspecting human companion, insists on dressing her in humiliating costumes as part of his act. But for grown-ups, kids, dogs, cats -- whoever is watching, there's enough here to keep them entertained.


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