Dir. Raja Gosnell, US, 2008, 91mins
Cast: Drew Barrymore (voice), Andy Garcia (voice), George Lopez (voice), Piper Perabo, Jamie Lee Curtis.
Review by Matthew Rodgers
Live-action talking animal movies are about as pleasant as walking out the front door and stepping in freshly laid excrement. Though there is of course one anomaly in this mongrel of a sub-genre, being the delightful and timeless Babe . Director Raja Gosnell appears to have found his niche. He helmed the lamentable Scooby Doo series and now returns with this inexplicably successful dog-yapping movie — it held the number one spot at the US Box Office for three weeks — whose script can only have been a series of indecipherable muddy paw-prints.
Chloe (Barrymore) is a pampered pooch, the kind you would find scrunched up worse than a battery hen inside some lollipop-headed heiress's handbag. When she is left in the care of Rachel (Perabo — surely a glutton for punishment after Rocky & Bullwinkle ?) by fashion guru Aunt Viv (Lee-Curtis), she is taken to Mexico and subsequently lost. So instead of being a biting satire on celebrity obsession and accessories that at a stretch Beverly Hills Chihuahua could have been, we get 90 minutes of inane adventures and racial stereotypes.
If you haven't walked out during the first canine conversation, then you deserve everything you get, because finding redeeming factors here is like digging for a bone in concrete. It's obviously going to appeal to the very young who still find the idea of a speaking dogs the height of comedy, but the most rewarding of so-called “kids films” have been able to balance themes with pratfalls and morals with chuckles. Apart from a comedy double-act consisting of a lizard and a rat, and the mysterious back story (for a dog anyway) of Garcia's effectively gravel voiced Alsatian, there is little to offer the accompanying adults or anyone else stupid enough to wander in.
With phoned in voice work from Barrymore that's cute but never sits right with the vacant and frankly confused look on the leading mutt's face and the cringeworthy sight of Lee-Curtis flushing credibility down the toilet by “woofing” during a phone call, Beverley Hills Chihuahua is like a dog that has just been for a swim in a muddy river and not washed for a week. Only it stinks so much worse than that.