Cats & Dogs appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. A mix of ups and downs made this a fairly mediocre transfer.
Most of the problems related to sharpness. While most shots displayed good clarity, more than a few exceptions occurred, as quite a few soft sequences emerged. Some of these seemed to stem from the movieís heavy usage of visual effects, but that didnít explain all of the tentativeness; plenty of standard images of humans appeared strangely fuzzy. Most of the flick remained reasonably precise, but too many iffy scenes appeared.
I discerned no edge enhancement, and no issues with jaggies or shimmering occurred. Print flaws remained modest. I noticed a couple of small specks, but nothing more prominent appeared.
Colors looked good, as the movie featured a bright and varied palette. The different tones usually came across as distinct and vivid, though the awkward visual compositing occasionally made them appear a little bland. Still, they mostly worked well. Black levels seemed deep and rich, and shadow detail normally looked appropriately heavy without any excessive opacity, though I thought a couple of low-light sequences appeared slightly too dim; this seemed to be another outgrowth of the visual effects. Enough of the movie looked good to merit a "C+" grade, but the inconsistencies made it less than stellar.
I felt more positive about the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Cats & Dogs. Since the movie essentially sticks with action-adventure themes, I expected a fairly active mix, and it didnít disappoint me. The front spectrum showed a nice array of audio, as music displayed solid stereo separation, and effects seemed to be well placed. This localization showed good integration and blending; elements moved efficiently and accurately across the channels, and they appeared to mesh cleanly.
As for surround usage, it stuck with general reinforcement for a substantial portion of the movie, but the rears came to life well when necessary. The action sequences showed solid surround elements. For example, the scene with the Russian stealth cat was a nice little showcase, and a lot of the other battle sequences also displayed good involvement and vividness.
Audio quality appeared fine. Dialogue fit with the action well, and speech sounded natural and distinct throughout the film, with no signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Music demonstrated good range, as the score appeared vibrant and bright with positive low-end response. Effects also came across as accurate and dynamic; they lacked distortion or flaws and showed solid bass. Ultimately, Cats & Dogs provided a very solid soundtrack that worked well for the material.
Most of the extras from the 2001 DVD reappear here. Some DVDs become better known for what they were supposed to include than what actually made the cut, and Cats & Dogs fell into that club. Earlier reports indicated the original DVD would provide two commentaries: one from the "dogs" and one from the "cats". This doesnít occur, but some vestiges of the original plan remain.
When the track starts, weíre told that weíll hear from the canine point of view; a note that weíll get the feline perspective quickly follows this remark. My guess is that two different tracks were prepared, but they werenít sufficiently compelling on their own and they were combined into one piece.
Of course, thatís just my personal theory, but it makes sense given the weird introductions. Itís also supported by the structure of the audio commentary. We have four participants: director Lawrence Guterman, producer Chris DeFaria, production designer James Bissell, and actor Sean Hayes. The first three were recorded together, while Hayes sat alone, and his statements were edited into the piece. Not surprisingly, this means that the threesome dominates the commentary; Hayes appears infrequently, though he adds some useful notes about the rigors of voice recording at times.
However, the track would work fine without him, for DeFaria, Guterman and Bissell prove to be a very entertaining group. They cover a myriad of topics, from effects challenges to story changes to working with animals to many other subjects. They make fun of the film to a degree and demonstrate a nice sense of humor about the project. Little of the standard happy talk appears here; while they seem positive about the film, they donít relate a fawning, overly praise-oriented attitude. Overall, this was a surprisingly terrific track. I came away with much more respect for the film and its creators and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
We get the ubiquitous HBO First Look special that covers the movie. Hosted by Sean Hayes, this 13-minute and 55-second piece provides the usual mix of movie snippets, shots from the set, and interviews with participants. In regard to the latter, we hear from a large number of folks. Comments appear from actors Hayes, Jeff Goldblum, Elizabeth Perkins, Tobey Maguire, and Susan Sarandon, director Guterman, producers DeFaria and Andrew Lazar, visual effects supervisors Ed Hayes and Bill Westenhofer, animal stunt coordinator Boone Narr, lead animal trainer Mark Harden, animatronics supervisor David Barclay, puppeteer Micha Sisti, and animatronics producer Sally Ray.
Whew - thatís a lot of folks for a show that runs less that 14 minutes! Not surprisingly, the level of detail found here is quite low, as the program rushes through topics quite briskly. The focus remains almost entirely on the technical processes, from voice recording to all of the effects work. Despite its superficiality, I thought the piece wasnít bad for its genre. I saw a lot of interesting tidbits that may have flown by too quickly, but at least it offered more than just the standard promotional fare. Yes, it did try to sell us on the movie, but it contained a reasonable amount of contest.
Additional notes about the filmís technical side appear in Teaching a New Dog New Tricks. This five-minute and 55-second featurette concentrates solely on the creation and integration of the animals into the movie. As such, we hear from some folks seen in the "First Look": DeFaria, Guterman, Narr, Jones, Ray, as well as a new person, lead animator Alison Leaf. Essentially, this show simply complements the material found in the "First Look", as it adds some decent details about the visual effects and the live animals. It remains superficial, but it seems entertaining and moderately informative.
Storyboard Comparisons gives us a glimpse of the scene in which the ninja cats invade the house. It shows the final film in the top right of the screen, while the boards appear in the lower left. I thought the images were too small; theyíd be more effective if they were larger. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the two minutes and 40 seconds worth of footage, mainly because the cartoony storyboards were fun to see.
Originally included as Easter eggs, some additional features remain a little hidden Ė but not very, especially since theyíre also mentioned on the Blu-rayís case. Click to the right on the Special Features page and youíll find 97 seconds of Mr. Tinklesí Screentest Footage. We observe "audition" reels in which the kitty tries out for flicks like On the Litterfront and Apocalypse Meow. Itís insubstantial but cute.
Another click to the right takes us to a 52-second highlight reel of some of the dogsí best moments from the film entitled Dogs Rule. The next egg appears farther right and youíll see a funny alternate version of Mr. Tinklesí Speech. In the 76-second reel, Hayes goes on about how bad most movies are, and essentially relates that Mr. Tinkles will be the biggest star of the year. He was wrong, but itís entertaining nonetheless. Lastly, a final click to the right gets you 15 Concept Sketches created for the movie.
A few ads open the disc. We get clips for Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore and a Galore Nintendo DS video game. No trailer for the original Dogs appears.
Cats & Dogs reached a decent audience in the summer of 2001 with its special effects trickery and modestly amusing James Bond spoofery. Parts of the movie entertained me, mostly thanks to a terrific vocal performance by Sean Hayes, but the film as a whole seemed less than scintillating. The Blu-ray provides very good audio and some supplements highlighted by a strong commentary, but picture quality seems mediocre. Dogs provides acceptable family entertainment, but the Blu-ray doesnít offer a huge step up in quality over its DVD predecessor, largely due to visual inconsistencies.
To rate this film visit the original review of CATS & DOGS