Is it me, or have we been getting a lot of talking animal movies of late? I suspect the use of the CG technology that exists today lends itself to this kind of film. You might even make the argument that it hasn’t really been any different than the talking animal cartoons that have been with us forever. It’s just that now we can make live action dogs, or any other creature, for that matter, appear to be talking in a fairly realistic way. And as far as the use of that technology, Beverly Hills Chihuahua certainly blends the CG and live action footage seamlessly enough. And while I can’t really find much fault with this movie, it just seems like I’ve seen and heard it all before, a little too often as of late.
The plot is one of those affairs that’s filled with holes and giant leaps of logic. It’s obviously intended for kids, but it’s a mistake to think that even the under 11 crowd doesn’t notice these incredibly unbelievable things. I don’t have kids, but I would worry if you have a kid that doesn’t let these unanswered questions go by without demanding an explanation. Of course, Disney doesn’t have to field those questions, like why does a rat want a diamond necklace so much. You’re the one who has to do the explaining. For what it’s worth, here’s the general plot:
Vivian (Curtis) is a cosmetics mogul. She owns a pet Chihuahua named Chloe (Barrymore). Chloe is one pampered pup. These are the kinds of people that really want to make you gag. She gets custom made jewelry and clothes. She drinks bottled water and eats high priced food from fancy restaurant menus. Vivian’s gardener, I mean, landscaper, also has a pet Chihuahua, Papi (Lopez). Papi’s not so spoiled and has a huge crush on Chloe. Chloe is Vivian’s constant companion, but when Vivian has to attend a 5 city European tour to pitch her latest line of cosmetics, she decides to leave Chloe behind in the care of her young niece, Rachel (Perabo). It seems she thinks Chloe is much too delicate for such a whirlwind tour. Rachel doesn’t take her responsibility all that seriously and immediately heads to Mexico to party with her friends, sensitive Chloe in tow. Chloe is dognapped by a band of dogfighters and sent to the ring to face the vicious Diablo (Olmos). At the last instant Chloe is rescued by the former police dog, German shepherd Delgado (Garcia). Delgado attempts to get Chloe home. The two run into the usual assortment of characters along the way, most notably a con team that consists of a rat (Marin) and an iguana. The pair steals her diamond necklace. Of course, the dognappers are also on the pair’s trail. The crooks now know she’s valuable and hope to ransom her. So, they’ve sent Diablo to track her down and bring her back. Meanwhile Rachel, the gardener, I mean landscaper, and Papi are also looking for the lost dog. Chloe finally learns about her heritage when they reach the ancient town of Chihuahua, the birthplace of her breed. There she meets Montezuma (Domingo) who regales her with the story of the small warrior breed.
The voice cast is interesting, but only serves to continue to lend credence to the typical Mexican stereotypes. Both George Lopez and Cheech Marin are amusing, but don’t blame the kids if they start to imitate less than flattering Mexican speech. Barrymore sounds perfectly dead in the role of Chloe. Her voice is much too soft and fails to display any real emotion. The problem is compounded when she’s surrounded by such dominating voices as Edward James Olmos, Andy Garcia, and George Lopez. The jokes are entirely one liners and mostly ethnic in nature. It’s a harmless enough film, and certainly not as bad as the original theatrical trailers made me believe. There’s enough shiny colors and interesting characters to entertain the kids, but adults will grow weary of the film long before it’s over. And then there’s the multiple viewings your kids will likely fall into. I’d say just ignore this one, but Disney, if nothing else, is a master at marketing. Your kids will know about this film and will no doubt be demanding it. Your only chance to survive is to try and find something else to attract their attention quickly. That’s the problem with shiny things. You can always find another one.
Beverly Hills Chihuahua is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.40:1. I mentioned this being a shiny film, and that it is. There’s nothing to complain about in this 1080p image brought to you by an AVC/MPEG-4 codec. Colors are bright, and the entire film has a very colorful look that will easily appeal to the kids. The detail is outstanding, so your kids can love every hair on those dogs’ bodies. The print is flawless. Black levels are excellent. The picture is likely better than it has to be for the target audience. You can’t say that Disney doesn’t put quality into the smallest details. It shows here.
The PCM Lossless Audio track delivers enough ambient sound to keep your ears as well as your eyes stimulated. You get a solid 6.9 mbps of uncompressed sound. There are plenty of goofy sound effects, and the mix spreads it all out pretty well. There’s even a bit more sub than I tend to expect out of these kinds of films. The Heitor Pereira score is actually overkill for this film. There are moments when you’d swear you were hearing Gladiator and others that feel like a James Bond theme, particularly when the bad guys are in frame. Dialog is handled extremely well. Everything blends together almost perfectly.
There is an Audio Commentary. It features director Raja Gosnell. He pretty much just talks logistics of working with the dogs and the various locations for the shoot. It’s a very matter of fact commentary which would be of no use for the kids and rather boring for the adults.
All of these features are in HD.:
Legend Of The Chihuahua: This 3 minute animated short is an amusing look at the history of the small breed. The kids will get a kick out of it.
Pet Pals – The Voices Behind The Dogs: This 9 minute feature, of course, focuses on the voice actors. You get a lot of the now common footage of them recording their lines. The cast talk about their characters and their own pets.
Hitting Their Bark: This 18 minute feature is all dogs all of the time. We get to meet the various canine actors and watch how they were trained to do the things they needed to do for the film.
Deleted Scenes: There are 10 scenes for an extra 24 minutes of footage. Some of the stuff does not have the finished mouth movement animation, so appears a little strange. One even requires storyboards to play out the scene. The director gives us an intro for each, providing the usual reasons why the scene was cut.
Blooper Scooper: The typical 3 minute gag reel.
Disney has learned a lesson from past experience. There have been instances, most notably 101 Dalmatians and Finding Nemo, where parents responded to children’s’ demands by buying them their new favorite animal. The film ends with a message about responsible pet ownership and finding the pet or breed that’s right for you. I’m not sure I can see a lot of kids out there demanding little yip yip dogs. My expectations were low, so I thought it was okay. Your kids will have the final say, and I believe they will end up loving it. As for me? “Just what I need, a Chihuahua with booties.”