October 3, 2008

GO SEE – Say Hello to Our Little Friends — Despite the Canine Cliches, This Chihuahua is No Dog of a Movie

By John Beifuss

If celebrity purebred Tinkerbell sees "Beverly Hills Chihuahua," there could be a putsch in Paris Hilton's purse. This live-action Disney release isn't the heel-biting reboot of "Clueless" I'd expected; instead, it's an almost epic canine consciousness-raising comedy-adventure in which a pampered pooch sheds her designer doggiewear and recovers her ethnic identity - and her ancient bark - after a dognapping plot leaves her stranded in Mexico.

"We chihuahuas are not toys or fashion accessories," little lost Chloe (voiced by Drew Barrymore) is told by Montezuma (voiced by Plcido Domingo), proud leader of a dog pack that occupies an Aztec ruin. Chloe soon learns that chihuahuas are "tiny but mighty" - a theme that kids in the audience will embrace.

Don't let the above paragraphs mislead you into thinking that "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" is more p.c. than AKC (American Kennel Club, to you). As a kiddie-oriented formula comedy with animals, the movie delivers, sometimes to a predictable fault: Only a few minutes elapse before the canines have uttered such lines as "Down, boy,""I love the smell of dirt in the morning" and "Talk to the paw." Also, the soundtrack eschews genuine Latin music for absolutely the most overplayed selections imaginable: "Whoomp! There It Is,""I'm Too Sexy,""Bad to the Bone" (played for a Doberman named Diablo) and Buster Poindexter's "Hot Hot Hot" (played when the action shifts to Mexico) should all be banned from movies, forever. (It's a shock that Disney had enough restraint to withhold "Who Let the Dogs Out?")

Such caveats aside, "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" is a movie adults should enjoy along with their children. In fact, it's tooled to appeal to all ages and demographics. For guys, there's a scary encounter with mountain lions; for gals, there's a romantic subplot that finds the snooty title B.H.C. being wooed by the earthy, overeager Papi (voiced by George Lopez), who belongs to a handsome young landscaper (Manolo Cardona). Sighs Chloe: "It's not easy to find a mate with papers, let alone one you could love."

Chloe's troubles begin when her devoted fashionista owner (Jamie Lee Curtis) leaves her in the care of irresponsible babe niece Rachel (Piper Perabo), who takes the spoiled trust-fund chihuahua along for a party weekend in Mexico.

At this point, the movie threatens to become a furry rewrite of such family films as "The Game Plan,""The Nanny Diaries" and "Big Daddy," in which self-centered young adults "grow up" as they begin to bond with the small fry in their charge. Fortunately, director Raja Gosnell ("Scooby-Doo," ugh) and screenwriters Jeff Bushell and Analisa LaBianco resist this temptation by shifting Rachel to the background after Chloe is kidnapped by a dogfight ring. "I was born to shop, not fight - unless it's at the sales rack," Chloe moans, from her dirty cage. "I'm an heiress." Responds a fellow prisoner: "A hairless?"

Soon, Chloe learns it's a dog's life, in a rope leash or a diamond collar (as Elvis Costello sang). With the help of a sniffer- impaired German shepherd (voiced by Andy Garcia) and the interference of a trickster rat (Cheech Marin) and his incompetent iguana sidekick (Paul Rodrigues), Chloe attempts to make her way back to Beverly Hills.

Despite a running time of only 91 minutes, "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" feels too long; its action-packed but frequently distracted narrative suggests a script stitched together from numerous rewrites. One also wonders why Disney isn't capable of delivering a live-action "family" film that's as witty and original as the company's animated releases. Even so, when the movie's finale all but announces that a sequel is on its way, I didn't groan: I smiled.

- John Beifuss, 529-2394


movie review

'Beverly Hills Chihuahua'

Rated PG for some suspenseful action scenes.

Three stars



On thebloodshoteye.com, John Beifuss wished a happy 75th birthday to Donna Douglas (Elly May Clampett on "The Beverly Hillbillies").

So hoist a jug of Granny's rheumatis medicine and whomp up a mess of your favorite vittles in honor of the pride of Pride, Louisiana (Ms. Douglas' hometown). She's a woman we'd all have liked to have sparked with in the courtin' parlor, if only we'd had the chance.

Originally published by John Beifuss / [email protected] .

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