BEVERLY HILLS CHIHUAHUA
***1/2 (out of 5)
October 3, 2008
Drew Barrymore as CHLOE
Andy Garcia as DELGADO
George Lopez as PAPI
Piper Perabo as RACHEL
Jamie Lee Curtis as AUNT VIV
Directed by: Raja Gosnell
BY KEVIN CARR
I know several critics that have been dreading the release of “Beverly Hills Chihuahua.” One, in particular, talked at great lengths about how lame family movies are nowadays, after seeing an advertisement for this film before “WALL-E” this summer.
I, too, first became aware of “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” when I took my kids to see “WALL-E” this summer. However, unlike many critics who attend advanced screenings, having kids with me for this trailer made me look at the film differently. The moment the trailer was over, my kids were bouncing in their seats, saying, “I need to see that!”
I don’t always defer my movie anticipation to my children. However, for films like “Beverly Hills Chihuahua,” it is entirely appropriate to acknowledge what a five-year-old and a seven-year-old have to say about it. They are, after all, the target audience for this film.
Like “Underdog” a couple years back, “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” is a live-action Disney film featuring real dogs with computer-generated mouths. A slate of celebrities lend their voices to the four-legged characters on screen. Drew Barrymore takes point as the high-society chihuahua named Chloe that is kidnapped on a vacation in Mexico. After escaping a ring of dog fighters, she’s helped by a retired police dog (voiced by Andy Garcia) to find her way home. (Other voices include Cheech Marin, Paul Rodriguez and even Placido Domingo.)
The real stars of this film are the dogs. The humans were lackluster in comparison. But the reality is that you can’t beat talking dogs on the cuteness meter. Like so many movies that are hitting the screens this week, “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” is made for its target audience (in this case, families) perfectly.
If you’re a film aficionado who is looking for the next potential Oscar winner, stay home. If you’re a fanboy who has gigabytes of Iron Man images on your home computer, skip this one. If you’re looking for irreverent, possibly British comedy that you might find on PBS, you’ll want to miss “Beverly Hills Chihuahua.”
The key to a film like this is the studio took themselves pretty seriously while making it. There aren’t too many winks and nods at the audience, and the story is told rather straight, which lets the humor blossom on screen. In particular, the epic soundtrack is a bit out of place as a backdrop to a chihuahua’s story, but it works by giving the film a grand scope… even with a six-pound heroine at the forefront.
I understand that yappy little chihuahuas often annoy people. As I write this, I can hear a gaggle of yappy dogs making a ruckus in a back yard a few doors down. (When will people learn that dogs don’t need to bark for three uninterrupted hours in the suburbs?) However, the Walt Disney studios have had a way with talking animals for the better part of a century, and they put their expertise to work in this film.
Don’t worry. There aren’t any Taco Bell jokes, even from George Lopez, who voices Papi and is given more screen time in the trailers than the film itself. In fact, some of the chihuahua jokes are pretty funny, if not juvenile. Throw in a couple more talking dogs – including Michael Urie as the poofy pug, one of Chloe’s snooty friends – along with a talking rat and iguana, and you have a movie that kids will adore… if not many film critics or fanboys.