Like many recent family comedies, Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore features way too many real life cats and dogs with computer worked mouths.  However, it is still extremely funny, though the beginning made me doubt my choice to pick this up free from my library.  It does, however, have an all-star cast: James Marsden takes the lead in this one with the voice of Diggs, a police dog about to be retired.  Nick Nolte replaces Alec Baldwin in the role of Butch.  Lou, previously voiced by Tobey Maguire, is now given a more mature voice by Neil Patrick Harris.  Bette Midler steps in to voice the evil Kitty Galore as only she can.  Other voices include the beautiful Christina Applegate, the hilarious Katt Williams, the ever-recognizable Wallace Shawn, and Bond himself, Roger Moore.  Returning voices include Michael Clarke Duncan, and Joe Pantoliano reprising their original roles, and Sean Hayes returns as the evil feline mastermind, Mr. Tinkles, with far too little screen time (given that he was the funniest thing in the first movie).  Too-short live-action performances are given by Chris O’Donnell and Jack McBrayer.

Diggs (Marsden) is a police K-9 that really wants to do right, but just can’t seem to listen (bad dog) and tends to blow things up (very bad dog, no treats for you!).  O’Donnell plays Shane, Diggs’ human partner.  After another explosion caused by Diggs, Shane must give up his canine partner.  Enter Butch (Nolte) and the PAWS team, an undercover group of dogs ready to step in and save humanity from… cats!  Diggs becomes Butch’s  partner but still can’t stop screwing up.  His first job is to grab a pigeon, Seamus (brilliantly bird-brained by Williams), and bring him in for questioning.  How hard can that be?  Enter the cats: First Applegate as Catherine (get it?) who also wants Seamus.  In a predictable fashion, one thing leads to another and all leads to cats, dogs and birds (and mouse) working together to the shock of all involved except the audience.  Midler comes in as the voice of the elusive Kitty Galore (formerly known as Ivanna Klawyu, spelling not confirmed, as it wasn’t in the cast list).  She puts her years of experience to work in a caricature of previous roles (think Hocus Pocus meets Beaches) and comes out with comedy evil to rival Mr. Tinkles (Hayes).  Even bald and wrinkly she is adorable to watch, and even the terrible not-for-children Bond pun of her name can’t detract from the sheer fun of the character.

As a fan of the Bond films, I thoroughly enjoyed the numerous references to them all, including the opening credits and song, down to a favorite Bond character, Jaws.  What ruined it for me was what always ruins family movies: the saccharine cutesiness of kittens and puppies and the overwhelming “AWWW” factor.  I love animals, and yes, even cute, adorable kitties and puppies (in a manly way, of course), but even I have limits.  Granted, this is for kids more than adults and most of them would love it, so this may not be a detraction to many.  I just can’t get by the computer generated mouths that are so obviously fake, along with other facial expressions.  I know, I know: “Cats and dogs are flying around on Bond-style gadgets springing from their backpacks, and the facial expressions are what bump you?”  There is such a thing called “willing suspension of disbelief.”  I can handle cats and dogs doing human-like things, but make it believable!  Yes, I know what I said!

Despite that, and despite the cheesiness of the opening, this movie is just as funny as the first one.  Or at least almost as funny.  There is a bit of the sequel curse upon it.  Perhaps that can be remedied in part 3, The Return of Cattible Lecter!  (Cattible Lecter to be played by Hayes again.)  (I made that up, don’t go looking for it!)  This time around, though, the funniest characters were Williams as Seamus the pigeon, Midler as Galore, and a squeaky little mouse named Scrumptious (voiced by Elizabeth Daily, best remembered by me as Dottie in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure… I had such a crush!).  But Mr. Tinkles mimicking Hannibal Lecter was unbeatable, but the kids might not appreciate it as much as the parents.  When was the last time you let your kids watch “Silence of the Lambs”?

With an all-star cast like that, I wonder why I don’t remember seeing this go through the theaters.  Did I just miss it; did it go through that fast?  True, it wasn’t as good as the first one, but I don’t think it went straight to video, did it?  I honestly don’t even remember it in my local theaters.  Well, I enjoyed it as a time-waster and it put a smile on my face, complete with several gut-laughs.  For a family it would be good, with all it’s cutesy animal stuff for the kids, and several references and puns for adults.  If too-cute kittens and puppies are too much for you, you may want to skip this as even the stars and comedy may not save it for you.  If you can handle that, give it a shot.  Renting videos is cheap, free from the library, and even if you don’t like it much, you didn’t lose much.

~ Kit