Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 14, 2018)
Back in 2001, Cats & Dogs became a modest hit. Sure, $200 million worldwide wasn’t a tremendous total even then, but given the movie’s $60 million budget – and probable popularity on home video – the flick clearly turned a nice profit.
Surprisingly, fans needed to wait nine years for a sequel, and 2010’s Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore appeared to suffer from that long layoff. Youthful fans of the original probably expressed no interest in a second chapter, and the film’s $112 million take on an $85 million budget meant it disappointed.
Perhaps this explains why the franchise waited an entire decade to produce Cats & Dogs 3: Paws Unite!, the newest chapter – and a direct-to-video affair. I guess someone thought they could milk the anthropomorphic animals for a little more fun – and money.
10 years ago, dogs and cats called a ”Great Truce”, whereby they’d work together to maintain peace in the face of various threats. Feline agent Gwen (voiced by Melissa Rauch) and canine agent Roger (Max Greenfield) work together to this end.
However, criminal mastermind Pablo (George Lopez) taps into a frequency only heard by cats and dogs to subvert this peace and prompt those species back into renewed conflict. Gwen and Roger lead an inexperienced team of rookie agents who must use old-school methods to halt this threat and re-establish the truce.
At its best, the original Cats offered silly fun, but unfortunately, it only sporadically achieved its potential. If I ever saw Galore, I forgot about it, so I can’t compare.
Whatever issues befell the first two movies, at least they offered professional Hollywood efforts, with casts that included “names” like Jeff Goldblum, Alec Baldwin, Bette Midler, Nick Nolte and many others. That level of credibility fails to attach to Cats 3.
When George Lopez acts as easily the biggest star in a movie of this sort, the viewer knows not to expect much from it. Honestly, I find myself a bit surprised the producers couldn’t recruit a couple of decent names, as this kind of flick offers actors an easy payday, as the voiceover work requires little time commitment.
That said, any “payday” relies on a decent budget. Based on what I saw here, I suspect Cats 3 probably cost about $219, as it seems relentlessly amateurish.
When I watch a movie meant for kids, I don’t expect it to come with a screenplay apparently written by kids. Cats 3 credits Scott Bindley as the movie’s writer, but I assume he got some local second graders to pen the script instead.
Within the movie’s first two minutes, we hear Gwen and Roger refer to the peace pact as the “Furry Animals Rivalry Termination”. The on-screen graphic easily allows us to see that this delivers the acronym “FART”, but just in case, Cats 3 offers repeated jokes that revolve around the spoken word “fart”.
Not content to let it end there, Pablo creates the “Pets Out of the Ordinary Pedigree” alliance – or “POOP”, of course. Are we amused yet?
Nothing else about the screenplay succeeds. The story seems dull and cheap, and the film tosses in a pointless subplot about two teens who inevitably will become pals, eventually in an innocent romantic way.
Why bother with the human story? No one goes to a Cats & Dogs movie for anything but animal shenanigans, so the narrative with the owners of Gwen and Roger acts as nothing more than cheap filler.
As a major animal lover, I kind of enjoy our time with the critters, though the subpar visual effects distract. The CG animation to make the characters speak/emote seems awkward at best and clumsy at worst.
While I suspect the work probably isn’t worse than it was for the first movie, that was 19 years ago, so one would expect significant improvements over that span. We don’t get them, and the awkward effects add to the movie’s bargain basement impression.
As noted, I can find some value from a movie that focuses on adorable animals. However, I’d be better off if I just scanned YouTube for dog videos. Cats 3 becomes an inane waste of time.