Last night I sat in my living room, watching America’s current Vice Presidential nominees argue over our failing economy, declaring doom and gloom for everyone who isn’t filthy rich while blaming each other for handing our money over to greedy wall street tycoons. This afternoon I walked into a movie theater and paid to see a movie about pets owned by people so wealthy, that their dog’s collars are worth more than I’ll ever make in my entire life. There has to be a connection in there somewhere, and with the nation’s economy crumbling around us it’s a strange time for a movie about canines with eff you money.
Beverly Hills Chihuahua isn’t intended for me though, or for that matter anyone who might be likely to spend their evening watching a Vice Presidential debate. No, it’s not really a kids’ movie either. Granted it is family friendly and full of talking dogs, but the kids I saw it with were fidgety and disinterested, beaten down by the movie’s needlessly divergent plot and the incessant, unceasing, often meaningless chattering of its canine stars. Talking dogs just aren’t the kiddie draw they once were. They’ve seen it, we’ve all seen it, and the novelty has worn off. This is a film created and presumably also written by, people who think dressing dogs up in clothes is really cute. Paris Hilton and lower-level office workers who own calendars featuring Weimaraners wearing hats will love it, and though you might have found something to like in the previews, I can’t imagine it being enjoyed by anyone else.
The real problem here is that they’ve picked the wrong Chihuahua as their star. It’s all about Chloe (voiced by Drew Barrymore), a white Beverly Hills raised Chihuahua owned by a wealthy cosmetics mogul and spoiled with jewels, clothes, and poolside parties with her friends. She’s loved from afar by Papi, a mangy, dirty Chihuahua owned by their landscaper. Papi (voiced by George Lopez), is a romantic, scrappy little thing and whenever he’s on screen the movie finds some life. Unfortunately he’s only a bit player in this story, which soon becomes focused entirely on Chloe when she’s accidentally lost in Mexico and must abandon her designer dog booties in enlisting the help of a German Shepherd named Delgado (voiced by Andy Garcia) to find her way home.
Chole is annoying, and kind of a bore. She chatters and whines endlessly, and of course, we all know where this is going. By the end of the movie she’ll have learned humility, given up her rich bitch ways, and fall in love with Papi. But it’s getting there that’s a pain in the ass, as she wanders through the streets of Mexico encountering random, and poorly thought out plot devices. Mostly though, there’s a lot of talking The dogs talk and talk and talk. And when they aren’t boring us to death with their prattle, the movie does something stupid. Here’s an example: The owner of a dog fighting cartel sends Chloe into the ring to battle a Doberman. She manages to escape, and suddenly the cartel boss is beside himself, determined to get her back in one piece so that he can ransom her. Ten seconds earlier mind you, he was perfectly content to let her be ripped to shreds by his guard dog. But the writers needed something to keep the tension amped up and keep Chloe on the run. So, rather than taking the effort to write a decent script, they’ve just used whatever happened to be laying around in the plot to chase her.
It’s not all bad. Some of the voice work, especially from Lopez and Garcia, is actually quite good. There’s also a completely bizarre, yet entertaining sequence in which a herd of Chihuahua’s materializes out of nowhere to defeat a group of mountain lions. I’m not sure if that was supposed to be funny, but I laughed. Beverly Hills Chihuahua is also one of the few recent movies to portray Mexico in a positive light. It’s never displayed as the poverty-ridden den of corruption and drug-running it actually is. Mexico City is made to look like New York with extra brown people, and Mexicans, at least in the context of this movie, seem like the nicest, most honest people on Earth. White people on the other hand, are all oblivious, selfish, and rich. If only that were true, maybe I wouldn’t have had to grow up on food stamps.
As for whether or not you should take your kids, don’t bother. I’ve never seen a more disinterested pre-teen audience. By fifteen minutes in, most of the children in the room had tuned it out. The ones sitting near me were doing headstands in their seats, and playing in the aisles. You might as well take your kids to Religulous. They’ll have just as much fun.