Brad Peyton's Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore is a sequel to a 2001 film nobody willfully remembers and from which it resurrects wholly dispensable characters just to generate content for 3D technology. Like its predecessor, this proudly insipid kid’s movie relies on cynical jokes with self-evident punchlines that proudly announce that what you see is exactly what you get with each passing minute of dead air that in real-time feels like five. Talking cats and dogs parody spy- and action-movie clichés mostly ripped off from the Roger Moore cycle of James Bond films, among other generic detritus. Are you laughing yet? On the off chance that you are, let me add this: This thoroughly ill-conceived CGI orgy cost $150 million to produce and will cost you around $14 per ticket if you see it in 3D. If The Revenge of Kitty Galore is any indication, the 3D sky is falling at a maddeningly slow but steady rate.
Like a Shane Black actioner, The Revenge of Kitty Galore confuses knowledge of genre clichés with mastery of the same lame formulas they characterize. This film embraces, but never expands, on its lame-o character types. Diggs (voiced by James Marsden), a German shepherd and rogue canine cop, is saved from the kennel after he accidentally blows up a used car lot (“He’s been in and out of kennels his whole life,” one dog explains). He’s saved from the doghouse by an old mastiff, Butch (Nick Nolte), and pampered beagle, Lou (Neil Patrick Harris), who both induct him into a secret society of dogs that fight an equally covert society of cats, represented by sassy Russian Blue agent Catherine (Christina Applegate).
The evil hairless Sphynx cat Kitty Galore (Bette Midler) is on the loose and has a plan that will momentarily unite cats with dogs to prevent the hairless feline’s diabolical plans for, yawn, world domination. This is all very funny because these are dogs and cats, not humans, see. They’re furry and cute but can talk and fly around in jetpacks. I don’t care how much you expect me to lower my expectations going into this film: There’s no conceivable new low that my brain could sink to that might make this material funny.
Opening with a Midler-sung cover of Pink’s “Get the Party Started” that’s made to sound as if it were an Albert R. Broccoli piece written for a Bond title sequence, The Revenge of Kitty Galore is constantly winking and mugging at its audience: Roger Moore plays a cat named Tab Lazenby, Kitty Galore strokes a lab mouse like Bond’s nemesis Ernst Blofeld stroked a white Persian cat, and both dog and cat spies use high-tech gizmos as a sign of their status as super-spies. And the film’s pastiche stew doesn’t stop there.
The scattershot allusions that screenwriters Ron J. Friedman and Steve Bencich make are so persistently shallow that they’re practically a challenge to any viewer over seven years old to check out and make a mental checklist of context-less pop-culture references. There’s a nod to Heroes’s “Save the cheerleader, save the world” season one mantra, a tip of the hat to the Joker’s transformation sequence from Tim Burton’s Batman, and even a Hannibal Lecter joke featuring Sean Hayes as an incarcerated Persian cat named Mr. Tinkles (he says that he ate the last bird that stood close to him with some Fancy Feast and a saucer of milk). Seven-year-olds could make up better and almost certainly more coherent material than this.
Beyond these soul-crushingly insulting gags, and the predominant running gag about cats and dogs now being able to joke about sniffing butts and chasing squirrels in English, The Revenge of Kitty Galore is pretty much a big-budget wasteland. Older viewers can, however, experience schadenfreude by watching how far certain has-been stars have fallen, like when Michael Clarke Duncan sings “The Hamster Dance” or when Chris O’Donnell plays the human buddy to Diggs’s canine cop.
And like all unimaginative filmmakers that don’t know what to do with 3D technology, director Brad Peyton subordinates all action in the movie to the tech he’s working with. Cats and dogs and even a pigeon constantly zoom up and around the screen or, worse, pop out at the viewer, making the film feel like a long one-note joke that even the filmmakers don’t think is that funny. This thing makes Homeward Bound look like high art.