Picks and Pans Review: Cats & Dogs

updated 07/16/2001 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/16/2001 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Jeff Goldblum, Elizabeth Perkins

The whimpered warnings of impending danger that used to emerge from the likes of Rin Tin Tin, Lassie and other celluloid canines pale alongside the high-tech heroics of Lou, the chatty puppy who takes on Mr. Tinkles, a megalomaniacal cat intent on achieving world domination for his species in Cats & Dogs.

This convivial (if overly busy) family film contends that: 1) animals can talk and 2) there is a war going on between cats and dogs, complete with sophisticated electronic surveillance equipment and complicated weaponry. Lou, a beagle puppy (voiced by Tobey Maguire, who sounds as if he's doing a Michael J. Fox impression), joins the fight after he is adopted by the Brody family. Lou is a replacement for the clan's longtime pooch who, unbeknownst to the Brodys, was dognapped by cats (driving a van bearing CATZRUL vanity plates) at the behest of the nefarious Tinkles. Lou and his doggie pals must do their best to keep Tinkles from getting his paws on a formula that Mr. Brody (Goldblum), a scientist, is devising to cure humans afflicted by allergies to dogs.

Cats & Dogs will amuse kids for longer than it does adults and dog lovers more than cat fanciers. The movie is heavy on litter-box humor, and the chase and battle scenes eventually become repetitive. The animals are portrayed using a mix of real four-legged stars, animatronic puppets and computer-generated imagery. While the dogs come off more realistically than the cats, Tinkles (silkily voiced by Will & Grace's Sean Hayes), with his long white hair and pouting face, is by far the movie's niftiest creation. Alec Baldwin and Susan Sarandon effectively lend their vocal talents to a couple of canine characters, but the human stars have little to do besides coo over their cute, befurred costars. (PG)

Bottom Line: Collars modest laughs, but mostly for pups

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