Straight out of Hollywood’s assembly line comes its latest, typically assaultive attempt at kiddie entertainment, “Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore,” a 3D sequel to 2001’s “Cats & Dogs.” With its title’s sanitized reference to the Bond girl from 1964’s “Goldfinger,” “Kitty Galore” features a number of movie references aimed at the cinema-savvy adults in the audience. While these are all forced, they at least provide a glimmer of fun in a movie otherwise packed wall-to-wall with a frenetic, James Bond-style plotline and inhabited by characters who are just tired, cookie-cutter variations of their human counterparts in standard spy-movie yarns.
After being released from the San Francisco police force for being impetuous and resistant to training, the loveable loose-cannon Diggs (James Marsden) is recruited by the gruff, seasoned Butch (Nick Nolte), an agent from a global, doggie-spy network. Their mission is to track down the sinister, titular villainess – a hairless, sinewy feline, and a former agent herself who harbors bitterness towards both cats and dogs for a past injury and humiliating exit from the feline spy agency, MEOWS. Kitty Galore has concocted a plan to transmit, via a global satellite, a signal that’ll drive the world’s dogs insane. To get the job done, the dogs do the unthinkable: They team up with their arch-nemeses, the cats, represented here by Catherine (Christina Applegate), a MEOWS agent.
Voiced by Bette Midler, Kitty Galore’s voice and mannerisms are unmistakably patterned after Gloria Swanson’s delusional Norma Desmond from Billy Wilder’s “Sunset Blvd.” Midler does a canny job of mimicking Desmond’s flamboyant, half-crazed theatrics. Similarly amusing is ex-James Bond Roger Moore’s “appearance” as head of MEOWS, and Sean Hayes as Mr. Tinkles, a kitty version of Hannibal Lector, outfitted with muzzle and restraining harness. The Lector sequence itself, set inside a feline wing of Alcatraz, is a cheeky homage to “Silence of the Lambs.” It’s all cute enough (and completely over the heads of the movie’s target audience), yet insufficient given the uninspired jokes and antics that dominate the rest of the film.
Much of “Kitty Galore” is a connect-the-dots slog through spy-movie tropes as our threesome, together with the streetwise pigeon Seamus (Katt Williams), piece together the nature of Kitty’s plan and follow clues to her whereabouts. Every beat, chase and action sequence feels stale and perfunctory, from Diggs’ disgraceful ouster from the mission (cue third act!) to the rocket-propelled chases all trumped up in 3D. While the occasional movie-inspired riffs elicit sporadic chuckles, all that will keep kids and their parents hooked are the undeniably cute animals and the message of working together to achieve common goals. Otherwise, neither the plot nor the action nor most of the jokes offer the joy or delight to make “Kitty Galore” worth the trip to the multiplex. For parents and kids seeking a witty, inventive story featuring cute, collaborative animals, look instead to Disney’s original “101 Dalmatians,” the single best talking-animal adventure ever made.
Directed by: Brad Peyton
Written by: Ron J. Friedman, Steve Bencich, John Requa, Glenn Ficarra
Cast: James Marsden, Nick Nolte, Christina Applegate, Katt Williams, Bette Midler, Neil Patrick Harris, Sean Hayes, Wallace Shawn, Roger Moore, Joe Pantoliano, Michael Clarke Duncan, Chris O’Donnell