It's a four-legged farce for 4-year-olds. To anyone much over that chronological or mental age, however, "Dogs and Cats: The Revenge of Kitty Galore" should give you paws.
If you go "Dogs and Cats The Revenge of Kitty Galore" 2 out of 5 stars Live action star Chris O'Donnell with vocal stars James Marsden, Christina Applegate, Bette Midler Director: Brad Peyton Rated PG for animal action and humor Running time: 82 minutes
The frivolous sendup seems purr-fectly geared to oblivious younger children. Yet the filmmakers take one of the smuttiest double-entendres in James Bond lore -- Honor Blackman's notorious character name in "Goldfinger" -- to satirize for the title. That reference isn't just inappropriate in this context. It's outrageous. But studio marketers like to make their kid films appear less abhorrent to the poor adults obligated to chaperone. So here, some overpaid genius must have thought we'd be deluded into imagining that a talking animal picture is more than just a talking animal picture since it is a 007 parody with an "edgy" label. Don't be fooled.
It could be worse though. Again playing off the concept of household pets in organized resistance groups, this reboot of 2001's modest hit "Cats and Dogs" makes May's unconditionally horrible Brendan Frasier chatty critter comedy "Furry Vengeance" seem almost like "Citizen Kane" by comparison.
But why not just make this a cartoon? No, uninspired Hollywood would rather wring the reality out of live animals again by anthropomorphizing them to speak human English -- not to mention what the domesticated actors must be put though for the stunts. But at least the animatronic and computer animation technologies in today's offering look slightly less fake than usual. Also to their credit, director Brad Peyton and screenwriter Ron J. Friedman toss in a few semiwry movie references and integrate some idiosyncrasies of actual dog and cat behavior into the characters.
This adds a smidgen of mature interest to a deliberately silly story: Spy dogs and cats in opposing secret agencies join forces to defeat the megalomaniacal hairless Kitty Galore (Bette Midler, giving the movie's only memorable vocal performance). She has a diabolical plan involving satellites -- like so many Bond villains -- to neutralize the world's dogs so that she can control their humans. Can Diggs the German shepherd (James Marsden), his new feline ally Catherine (Christina Applegate) and their compatriots stop her?
A highfalutin ensemble is mostly unnecessary with Chris O'Donnell as Diggs' two-legged owner and Nick Nolte, Neil Patrick Harris, Sean Hayes and Roger Moore (wink, wink) voicing various beasties. But who cares who's talking now? A good Discovery Channel documentary is a preferable option any day.