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HTF Bluray Review: CATS AND DOGS

Discussion in 'Archived Reviews' started by Leo Kerr, Jul 23, 2010.

  1. Leo Kerr

    Leo Kerr Screenwriter

    May 10, 1999
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    Cats and Dogs

    A Village Road Show / Warner Brothers BluRay release, with Jeff Goldblum and Alexandar Pollock (humans) and the voices of Tobey Maguire, Alec Baldwin, Sean Hayes, and Susan Sarandon and was directed by Lawrence Guterman. It was originally released in July 2001.

    The feature is a full-frame 1.77:1 version of a 1.85:1 original composition, with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 in English. Also available in Dolby Digital 5.1 are English, French, and Spanish (Latin and Castilian.) Subtitles are available for English-SDH, French and Spanish. The feature runs about 87 minutes. After a fairly quick load, there is a warning, a pair of trailers, and then the main menu comes up fairly quickly after that. The packaging is a standard Bluray case, with the disc and a coupon for a discounted admission to Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore in 3D.

    Retail price for this Bluray title is $24.98, and was released in the United States on July 20, 2010. The program itself is rated PG for ‘animal action and humor.’

    The Feature — ½
    The concept is simple: since the dawn of civilization, dogs and cats have been battling for world supremacy, under the very noses of the humans who thought that they were in charge. As the human world has evolved and advanced (technologically,) so too has the competition between Felis catus and Canis lupus familiaris. The opening “chase” before the titles is — elaborate, but conventional. After that, we are entered into a world not unlike that of James Bond or Mission: Impossible. Gadgets, spies, elaborate contraptions, and more gee-whiz technology than one can shake a stick at.

    More specifically, the story is thus: Professor Brody (Goldblum) is doing allergy research in his basement laboratory, attempting to find out how to neutralize human allergies to pets. The dogs are trying to keep ‘agents’ in the Brody home to protect the research. Due to an accidental mix-up, Lou, an untrained beagle puppy (voiced by Maguire,) ends up replacing a ‘retired’ agent, instead of one of the new agents flown in. The local senior agent, Butch (voiced by Baldwin,) tries to deal with the situation as best as he (and the other clandestine dogs) can. Meanwhile, Mr. Tinkles (voiced by Hayes,) is the evil megalomaniacal mastermind long-hair Persian, directing his agents to steal the research for his own nefarious plans of global domination. Pollock plays Scotty, the boy in the Brody house, who helps remind Lou to be a puppy, while Sarandon voices Ivy, who reminds Butch that there is more to life than The Great Game.

    What follows is a light-hearted romp and cavort across town, under-town, and over-town, as the various parties execute plan after plan against one another. It is wildly implausible most of the time, and often feels like it’s trying to be a Bruckheimer film. But wait! That was G-Force, with guinea pigs (but also with Goldblum)! From the Bond parallels, just about the only thing it is missing would be Q, although all of Q’s gadgets are present.

    The Picture — ½
    The picture is “pleasing.” It’s not the sharpest picture I have ever seen, and, I suspect, that a really sharp image might actually be bad. After all, this feature is mixing live action trained critters, computer graphic elements, and puppetry. Some of the non-live elements are less successful than others. And given the amount of processing throughout much of the film, I would not be surprised to hear that this was a relatively early “digital intermediary” feature. Some of the colors seem a little intense, particularly those beautiful Vancouver lawns, but it is still within the realm of plausible film saturation (anyone here ever shoot Fuji’s Velvia transparency film?) The transfer to Blu is very clean and free of dust, dirt, and scratches. Common digital bugbears — excessive grain and noise reduction, edge enhancement, and the like — are not prominent, but thinking back on it, it almost seemed too clean. But, if this were a DI film, they might have done some softening to help blur the boundaries between the multiple animal techniques that they were using during production. (Note that this film was released in a time-frame where the Digital Intermediary was a fairly new but practical process — although generally limited to about a 2k resolution.)

    The feature is encoded with the AVC, for full 1920x1080x24p. The full frame composition seems fairly natural, although the box itself is reporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, not the 1.77:1 that is actually being delivered. (Internet Movie Database is not being helpful, as it is reporting 1.33:1. To judge by some of the special features changing their crop, production effects were done hard-matted to 1.85:1.)

    The Sound
    The sound mix is a trifle uneven. Occasionally, something stands out in the surround channels; a “hey, listen to me! I’m a surround-left effect!” sort of event. Otherwise, the sound is mostly toward the front sound-stage, with a fairly good stereo presence for sound effects and ambience. Music is unexceptional, trying to be too many things without knowing what it wanted to be on its own. Dialog is clear and intelligible. While generally not daring, there is very little ‘wrong’ with this sound-track.

    The Extras
    There are numerous extras. These seem to be mostly lifted from the previous DVD release of the same title. And most of the extras are standard definition.

    Audio commentary. Full-time chatter between Director Lawrence Guterman, Producer Chris DeFaria, and Production Designer James Bissell. There are occasional inserts from other people as they are merited. Much of the chatter seems to be almost that; not always closely related to the action on the screen, but at least generally related to the feature.

    A fourteen minute HBO First Look lead by Sean Hayes on the making of the film. Fairly puffy in the content, and cut together in a fairly annoying manner. Maybe it would be more successful to the 10-13 age group.

    A six minute Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks, discussing the difficulties of integrating CGI, puppetry, and trained animals; the fundamental problem being that people know how dogs and cats are supposed to look and act.

    A three minute storyboard comparison, featuring the Ninja Cats.

    A minute and a half of Mr. Tinkles audition tapes and screen tests — trying to get into Casablanca, Forrest Gump, Apocalypse Now, and others.

    A minute of Dogs Rule.

    A minute or so of Mr. Tinkles’ address to the press.

    A fifteen slide still-gallery of concept art of the Ninja Cats.

    Also on the discs are two previews for Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, both the feature film and the video game. These are in HD.

    In The End — ½
    The biggest thing this film struggled against is that it was made right before the digital revolution really struck the film-world. Much of what they tore their own hair out with would now be relatively easy in the computer. And perhaps, this might have suffered from it. That is always an interesting sort of question. If the human characters seem to be particularly gross caricatures, perhaps it is meant to be how the ‘domesticated’ animals all around us might see us.

    Overall, it’s a kind of fun popcorn film that looks pretty good. Children should enjoy it, from some of the commentary, many scenes were inspired by some of the classics of the Warner Brothers cartoon world: Road Runner is specifically cited by the makers.

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