CERT: U / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (CINEMAS)
Way back in 2001, Lawrence Guterman’s high concept family comedy Cats & Dogs pitted cats and dogs against each other with a spy thriller spin and while some mean old critics were sourpusses about it, the film was a box office hit, with a very fun concept that was well executed, boasting a strong cast and some memorable characters. Nearly 20 years on however, the franchise feels like it has aged in dog years.
2010’s Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore was pretty poor but my word Cats & Dogs 3: Paws Unite! sadly is a pavement foul of a trilogy closer. A mostly standalone film (with links being formed only through the concept and a passing mention of previous series baddies), Paws Unite! sees a world where some degree of harmony has been reached between the two species, who work at the agency together to keep the peace. But a new threat rises, when a mysterious and sinister transmission promises to have cats and dogs back at each others throats. And it is up to a ragtag crew to stop this plot from an all new villain.
While there is definitely an idea here in the concept of secondary pets wanting revenge on cats and dogs for pushing them to the sides of adoption (a premise you could do something with), you sadly know that you are in for a “ruff” ride when the script makes such a big deal of its oh so hilarious agency acronyms that spell out F.A.R.T and P.O.O.P. Paws Unite! may have received a cinema release here in the UK due to COVID but cannot hide its home video (which it was virtually everywhere else) DNA.
This sequel, with its many cliches and story that invites blasé feeling, is atypical ‘straight-to-disc sequel based on a once popular brand’ fodder. The animals are cute (we love animals here at Starburst) and are also the best actual actors in the entire movie too and yes, it is harmless and inoffensive for the very youngest of audiences, but there is virtually nothing here to distinguish this from any other talking animal picture ever made, save for its tentative connection to a popular past film. In fact, you would be better served just going back and watching that to be honest. As it holds up miles better than this.
One memorable character emerges in vengeful lizard Zeke (Paul Dobson) but the lack of energy and indeed the absence of the original’s scene-stealing villain Mr. Tinkles, even in cameo form, only adds further disappointment to a “sequel” that is eye rolling more than it is side splitting. With its moments of wonky editing of real pet footage, ropey mouth moving CGI and gags that are completely stale, as well as a human story that is as beige as it gets, Cats & Dogs 3: Paws Unite! often unfortunately reminds you, exactly why it is a film that you had no idea was even being made. Still, the animals are absolutely lovely!