BEVERLY HILLS CHIHUAHUA
A single moment of magical realism shows the Babe-that-might-have-been, very charitably speaking, had the makers of this doggie adventure-comedy chosen a more daring and creative route: Our heroine, a dognapped, pampered Chihuahua from Beverly Hills, is lost in the Mexican desert with her protector, a valiant German shepherd. In a cloud of dust and with an implicit hearty "Hi-yo, Silver!" they're rescued by a giant pack of feral Chihuahuas in the namesake Mexican state. What follows is an amazing, delightfully loony sequence amid Mayan ruins, where these tiny descendants of wolves have a stirring celebration of Chihuahua pride. Are they toys to be patronized and petted? "¡No mas!" "¡No mas!" "¡No mas!"
That's the sole bit of wit and creativity in a movie so formulaic it seems like a parody of the human version, replete with the rich bitch (literally, in this case) who's spoiled but otherwise isn't a bad sort; the working-class stiff who loves her; and a disgraced former police dog who needs redemption and reluctantly helps her try to get home—and who, of course, has a history with the evil-dog henchman in the employ of the kidnappers who want her.
If all that sounds head-noddingly familiar, then be assured you could write the broad strokes of this story as well if not better than minor sitcom scripter Jeff Bushell and first-time produced screenwriter Analisa LaBianco. Except for the aforementioned moment, Beverly Hills Chihuahua goes through its motions with all the predictability of a dog-show agility trial. (And the movie's tagline is deceptive: It refers to the male Chihuahua, who's just a supporting character.)
Give the studio a kibble, however, for the inspired marketing notion behind this film, which utilizes almost exclusively Mexican locales plus a bevy of Hispanic boldface names—not just such American stars as Andy Garcia (voicing ex-police dog Delgado) Edward James Olmos (bad dog El Diablo) and George Lopez (would-be paramour Papi), but also the Univision TV/radio giants Eugenio Derbez (as a human shopkeeper) and Eddie "Piolín" Sotello (voicing a supporting dog), plus popular Latin American actors Manolo Cardona (as Papi's human, Sam) and Jesús Ochoa (as a human police detective). When half the cast can dub their own voices for the Latino market and are already stars there, you can spell "crossover" as "cro$$over."
That may be the only market where the movie earns its keep, though. Aside from its by-the-numbers quality, it engendered no laughs from a preview audience with a large number of young children. Parents might also be concerned that the arrogant privilege and conspicuous consumption of Beverly Hills gets portrayed as something cute and desirable, rather than as piggish overindulgence; it's a tribute to Jamie Lee Curtis' talent that she makes her character—an eccentric, fashion-tycoon pet owner—feel like the movie's only real human being.
Even the standard be-true-to-your-heart clichés don't work, since the "nobly working-class" Papi is annoying and not particularly bright, and heroine Chloe (unrecognizably voiced by Drew Barrymore) is shallow and uninteresting. And as ridiculous as it sounds to talk about romantic chemistry between anthropomorphic dogs—Lady and the Tramp and 101 Dalmatians notwithstanding—you sort of find yourself rooting for Delgado to win the lady's paw.
Piper Perabo, whose endless array of credits seems baffling and who cannot do comedy, plays the feckless niece entrusted with Chloe's care. Cheech Marin and Paul Rodriguez are mildly fun as a CGI rat-and-iguana con-artist team. And the movie's colorful exotica may as well have been sponsored by the Mexico Tourism Board.
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