Studio: Walt Disney
US Rating: PG - For Some Mild Thematic Elements.
Film Length: 91 Mins
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 and 1.33:1
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, French and Spanish Language Tracks
Subtitles: French and Spanish
Review Date: March 1, 2009
The Film - out of
Chloe: I don't belong here. I'm an heiress.
Manuel: A hairless?
Chloe: No, an *heiress*!
Beverly Hills Chihuahua undoubtedly raised plenty of weary eyebrows (like mine) when the first advertisements for it graced movie theater screens. It wasn’t so much the idea of a talking animal movie, since the Air Bud films, Cats & Dogs, Dr. Doolittle and a slew of others have worn that ground well. It was more the absurdity of the premise – a focus on rich Chihuahuas and the lifestyle of the indulgent being celebrated almost to the status of canine deity (based on the trailer) that seemed to trigger a near universal eye roll.
Disney, however, being the masters at creating waves of salivating audiences for things they never new they wanted to see, managed to strike just the right tone with its ad campaign, enough tongue-in-cheek acknowledgment of the films ludicrous concept, and conviction in selling this film as a nothing more than a slick, kid-friendly adventure with cute dogs that talk. And that is, as it happens, exactly what this cute film is which is likely why it became such a hit.
Chloe is a pampered, spoiled lap dog living in the lap of luxury. Her owner treats her as a precious member of the family, happily adorning her with expensive jewels, premium outfits and taking her to doggy-spa’s where she is treated like a princess. When Viv, her owner, leaves on a business trip entrusting her (and her friends) to the care of her niece, Rachel, she is taken on a little vacation to Mexico. But left alone one evening, against her wishes, Chloe escapes to try and find Rachel and is abducted by dog thieves. She is taken to a dog fighting ring where she meets others that have been unwillingly pulled into the illegal dog fighting underground too. With help, she escapes and begins an adventure of discovery and triumph as she tries to make her way home to Beverly Hills. She befriends Delgado, a serious German Shepherd who saved her from the peril of a dogfight with El Diablo, the Doberman pincer belonging to the dog-fighting crime lord.
While Chloe and Delgado attempt to get the pampered and precious Chloe back to the luxurious lifestyle she is used to in Beverly Hills, they are chased by El Diablo and searched for by the Mexican police and a very worried Rachel along with Viv’s landscaper Sam and his dog Papi, who is in love with the dainty Chloe.
Beverly Hills Chihuahua isn’t original or surprising with its story and it certainly doesn’t blazing any new ground whatsoever, but what it does do is deliver the familiar with a genuine sense of fun, very high production values and likable characters that come to life with very good voice talent. Chloe is provided with an excellent vocal performance by Drew Barrymore, who takes the spoiled character from prissy and pampered to humbled and appreciative while never becoming annoying or unlikable. Andy Garcia provides the stoic and grumpy but dedicated Delgado with everything the character needs – making him fatherly, protective and ripe to be softened by the charms of their adventure. And George Lopez as Papi is exactly what you would hope to hear from this fine comedian. A selection of other fine voice talents provide the remaining characters with energy, quirky quips and a quick-witted flair that helps this film feel like an ensemble at times. You will find Luiz Guzman as Chucho, Cheech Marin as the con-artist rat Manuel, Edward James Olmos as El Diablo, Paul Rodriguez as Chico, Michael Urie as Sebastian and Placido Domingo as Monte – all delivering lively and entertaining performances.
On the human side, Piper Parabo plays Rachel – a little spoiled herself but who also has the opportunity to learns some humbling lessons during her search to find Chloe and return her home before Viv returns from her trip. Manolo Cardona plays Sam, the landscaper and not unexpected love interest to Rachel as they partner to rescue the manicured Chihuahua. Chloe’s protective owner, Viv is played by Jamie Lee Curtis. Curtis seems to have stopped getting older and looks just lovely in this easy role as the rich pampering owner.
Beverly Hills Chihuahua’s high production values, solid (and song laden) score and fine direction (from Raja Gosnell) make this a great film for kids to adore. The film also makes good use of its Mexican settings, showing the beauty and a little of the culture of that country that is most often left out in favor of showing the just slums and poorer quarters. This film actually provides some balance in what we see of our neighbor to the south.
Go ahead, roll your eyes back to normal and prepare yourself to enjoy this film with your kids as perhaps you never expected you would.
Walt Disney brings home the pooches with both widescreen (2.40:1 enhanced for widescreen TV’s) and fullscreen (1.33:1) options. An excellent transfer that offers up vividly bright colors in the Beverly Hills scenes, clean whites, rich blues and shiny, reflective surfaces that comes across sharp. When the action moves to Mexico, the color palette opens up, introducing more greens, oranges and grays that are all delivered with distinction, clarity, and good contrast, all free of issues.
A good looking video presentation, happy colors, warm and rich with a good amount of details in the darker, shadowy settings.
Beverly Hills Chihuahua comes to DVD with a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound track (along with French and Spanish language tracks). The film is helped along with a greater than average amount of songs – undoubtedly fueling some CD sales – but what that means is that the speakers get to come alive frequently with tunes old and new. The surrounds are used frequently to deliver these songs and the bass is quite healthily asked to help out as well. You will find that this audio suits the film perfectly and won’t disappoint.
Deleted Scenes with Introductions by Director Raja Gosnell – (10:09) – Three deleted scenes introduced by the director explaining how these scenes would have fit in the final product, including the originally scripted version of the final scene (though not quite finished).
Blooper Reels – (3:07) – A cute look at some of the chaos and unpredictable tendencies of working with animals.
Legend of the Chihuahua: Animated Short – (3:07) – A cartoon short covering the history of the unique breed of dog that the film celebrates.
Feature Audio Commentary by Director Raja Gosnell – An even keel commentary, with a few quiet spots but also a fair share of tidbits about the location shoot, the voice talent and how the composited shots of dogs, filmed separately to control the chaos of filming with animals, were needed and set up.
Part of me feels that I may have enjoyed this film more than expected because I had a Chihuahua – my first dog that I owned – and the Chihuahua’s in Beverly Hills Chihuahua reminded me of his distinct personality, his agitation at not getting his way and his implausibly cute expressions. Bucket was his name and he passed away last year. This film reminds me of his attitude and personality – Chihuahua’s can be great companions – though they sleep far more than this movie shows.
But no, I think this film is worthy of picking up or renting to watch with the young ones because it is diverse, with good messages about treating others with respect and appreciating what you have, all packed within non-stop fun and supported by a fine cast of voice talent.
Not perfect, not original but fun every step of the way.