I know before I even get started that reviewing this is a losing cause. If I trash the film for any reason, those that like it will no doubt point out how I, as a representative of Film Threat and not, say, a child, have no business seeing and reviewing this film. If I say good things about it, I will be ignored by my cinema-savvy peers and possibly lose indie cred points (which are redeemable for black turtle necks, leather jackets and pretentious eyeglasses). Either way, I could give a f**k. That said…
“Beverly Hills Chihuahua” isn’t nearly as offensive to the senses as I originally thought it would be when first presented with the trailer. See, that all-music trailer had me convinced I was in for a corny talking dog musical. As it turns out, I was just in for a corny talking dog movie, period.
The plot for the film is simple enough: pampered Bevery Hills lapdog chihuahua Chloe (Drew Barrymore) is placed, by her doting owner Viv (Jamie Lee Curtis), in the irresponsible hands of niece Rachel (Piper Perabo). Rachel, annoyed with waiting hand-and-foot on a spoiled dog and wanting to be with her friends, decides to take Chloe with her on an impromptu trip to Mexico, where she promptly loses Chloe.
From there, Chloe is dog-napped by a dog fighting group, and put up to battle a Doberman by the name of el Diablo (Edward James Olmos). Before she is savaged and eaten, Delgado the weary German Shepard (Andy Garcia) saves her and he, and the rest of the imprisoned dog fighters, escape.
The rest of the film involves Chloe and Delgado trying to get back to Beverly Hills while Diablo and the dog-nappers are in hot pursuit (as they finally realize that the chihuahua with the HUGE DIAMOND COLLAR might be worth more to them alive than as Diablo’s chewtoy). Meanwhile, Rachel wanders around Mexico also looking for Chloe, with the help of Viv’s landscaper Sam (Manolo Cardona) and his own chihuahua Papi (George Lopez), who happens to love Chloe and knows her scent like… well, like a dog would.
This may be a film for children, but even the sparse crowd I saw the film with was underwhelmed. Sure, the novelty of seeing dogs talk is enough to entertain for a while, but I sincerely doubt any kid in the theater gave a f**k what Chloe was talking about half the time (the beginning of the film in Beverly Hills is like “Sex and the City” for dogs, and I think most of it would be lost on kids; it was certainly lost on me). The only laughs I heard were directly related to slapstick, usually when a human fell down.
There were two sequences that I actually did enjoy out of the entire film, however, one of which was a set piece where an army of chihuahuas comes out of nowhere to save Delgado and Chloe from three CGI mountain lions before taking our two heroes back to their hidden Mexican temple city (it feels so stupid to type it out, but it’s pretty cute).
The film ultimately does try to teach a lesson, about always respecting your roots, respecting yourself and respecting those different from you, but the film doesn’t really allow the lesson to sink in. Sure, Chloe seems to be enlightened by her journey, but when she finds herself back in her Beverly Hills luxury at the end of the film, the “No Mas!” mantra she picked up from her native chihuahuas in response to how the dogs are treated as toys and not noble creatures (sorry… I started to laugh… hold on) doesn’t seem to stick. It’s like… I am noble and strong, and demand respect… unless you pamper me, in which case I will do whatever you want, even if it means I have to wear doggie booties on my paws.
Will kids enjoy this? Like I said, they’ll dig the slapstick and they’ll probably dig the chihuahua army, but I still doubt any of the voice acting impresses them, even if they do actually listen to what is being said. And that’s too bad, because Andy Garcia delivers the best Assy McGee impersonation I’ve ever heard outside of the cartoon.
This is no classic, but the talking dogs are less offensive to a child than any of the sequences showing how the rich and powerful live and behave in Beverly Hills. In other words, if you HAVE to see this to keep a kid happy, you won’t die. And likely won’t have to see it again, either (don’t peg this one for repeat value).