- Rated G
- Buy the BD
All photos © Walt Disney.
Reviewed by David Medsker
omewhere at NYU, there is someone with a plan, someone who’s bound and determined to Change The World with his or her vision, the kind of approach to moviemaking that ultimately results in the human race taking the next evolutionary step (“Pulp Fiction,” “The Matrix,” “The Usual Suspects,” “Memento,” etc.). Everyone who goes into school to be a director thinks they’re going to be that guy, of course, otherwise they wouldn’t do it. But here’s the catch: most of them don’t get there. If they’re lucky, they drum up a career shooting TV commercials, and there is nothing wrong with that. Indeed, my best friend works in advertising, and he knows directors that love shooting TV spots and turn down every offer they get to jump to the “big leagues.”
It is this that I think of when I see a movie like “Beverly Hills Chihuahua.” I don’t personally know Raja Gosnell, the movie’s director, but I have to think that when he was serving as Chris Columbus’ apprentice – look at his IMDb credits – he must have thought that he would be directing something more high-profile than this by now. And from the looks of things, Gosnell is probably capable of building a much better movie than this. He seems to have the vision, and puts together some impressive tracking shots. The problem is that he’s making the kind of movie where no one cares about the direction, or the acting, or the voice work, or the CGI. “Are the dogs in place? All right, let’s roll!” Taking this gig had to be a bitter pill to swallow. You can’t help but feel bad for the guy.
Drew Barrymore serves as the voice of Chloe, a pampered Chihuahua whose owner, the world-traveling Vivian (Jamie Lee Curtis), has left Chloe in the care of her aimless niece Rachel (Piper Perabo). Not one to turn down a chance to party, Rachel takes Chloe with her to Tijuana with some friends, and loses Chloe in a matter of minutes. Chloe soon finds herself about to be fed in a dog fight to a Doberman named Diablo (Edward James Olmos), but Delgado (Andy Garcia), a German shepherd, saves her and the other dogs. As Chloe tries to find her way back home while eluding Diablo, and Rachel tries to convince Aunt Viv that she has not lost her dog, Papi (George Lopez), the dog of Viv’s landscaper Sam (Manolo Cardona), begins his own search to rescue the (unrequited) love of his life.
There really isn’t anything salvageable here. Barrymore sounds like she read her lines without any inkling of the context, and the emotional tone is wrong at almost every turn. The voice casting is curious, to say the least – they really couldn’t find anyone younger than George Lopez to play Barrymore’s love interest? – the soundtrack is lazy (“Low Rider,” ugh), and try not to cry when watching the scene where Perabo barks like Chloe in a Mexican police station while Curtis blows cutesy comments into her ear on the other end. Somewhere in Hell, a demon got its wings for that scene alone.
We’d even argue that half of the parents that took their children to see “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” in the theaters – come on, people, your kids look to you for guidance – knew going in that they were throwing their hard-earned money at, um, a dog of a movie. Little do they know how much power they possess; if you don’t want to take your kids to see a movie inspired by Paris Hilton’s dog, don’t. If enough people skip it, and the movie tanks, they won’t be encouraged to make another one. As it is, “Chihuahua” made $94 million at the box office (just under five times its budget), which means you can bet on this spawning a DVD sequel at the very least. If movie critics have a reputation for being old cranks, it’s because of movies like this. Help us help you, please.
Single-Disc Blu-Ray Review:
If there’s one thing you’ll learn from watching the special features on “Beverly Hills Chihuahua,” it’s that no matter how cute dogs may be, they’re nothing but trouble to work with. Both the included making-of featurette (“Hitting Their Bark”) and gag reel (“Scooper Blooper”) serve as examples of the difficulties that come with such territory, and it’s hard not to feel bad for director Raja Gosnell. His movie may have made a killing at the box office, but Gosnell’s feigned interest in the audio commentary is more than enough reason to assume he won’t be returning for a sequel. Rounding out the bonus material are interviews with the various voice actors (“Pet Pals”) and a short animated history of the Chihuahua, but it's nothing that your kids will really care to see.