Although it hasn't been a good Summer for just about every other genre, family entertainment got a hefty boost from "Shrek", which went on to become the year's top grosser so far. Although "Shrek" is begining to slow down, there's another movie right behind it that's a worthy successor. "Antz" director Larry Gutterman has taken one of nature's oldest battles and turned it into zippy, high-energy entertainment that's witty and wonderfully animated.
In "Cats and Dogs", Jeff Goldblum plays scientist professor Brody, who is about to come up with a formula that will solve the problem of some humans being allergic to dogs. This sends a scare through the cat community, as this would give dogs the upper hand in the pet population. This causes the canine agents to be on patrol, including the local leader, Butch (voice of Alec Baldwin). After the latest agent on the case got sent to retirement, its time to put another dog on guard so that the cats can't catnap the formula. After a bit of an error, Mrs. Brody (Elizabeth Perkins) briings in a puppy (voice of Tobey Maguire) into the house rather than the agent that had been planned to come in.
Elsewhere, Mr. Tinkles (voice of "Will and Grace"'s Sean Hayes) is a persian kitty planning to snatch the formula and take over the world while he's at it, with the non-help of his assistant (voiced wonderfully by Jon Lovitz). Two main action sequences are brilliantly staged - in one, Lou must take on a crew of feline Ninjas and the other one, which has some of the film's best lines has a cute Russian Blue doing a sneak attack, bringing his own arsenal into the house.
There's several things that are remarkable about the movie. First of all are the special effects; where "Dr. Dolittle" has the mouths of animals moving simply, the effects here make those look primitive. Rhythm and Hues, who were suprisingly also responsible for "Dr. Dolittle 2", not only has the mouths of both the cats and dogs moving convincingly, but gives them hilariously lively and natural expressions - they frown, smile, etc. Even the fight sequences and a few other moments are so realistic looking that I was greatly impressed. Almost as impressive as the creature animation is the dog's lair, which is outfitted with the latest in spy technology. The other element that I thought was exceptional was the screenplay by first time writers Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, which is not only smart, sharp and very funny, but has a few really great jokes that only adults will get - like "Shrek", the movie contains an equal amount of humor for both young and old.
Praise also has to go to a few other groups. Although the humans (thankfully) don't get much in the way of screentime, Goldblum, Perkins and Alexander Pollock as their son do a fine job. Best of the character voices is Sean Hayes, who makes Mr. Tinkles a wonderfully diabolical villian and Lovitz as Calico. Maguire makes an energetic hero as well, and Baldwin does his "Pearl Harbor" voice over again as Butch.
Last, but not least, look for elegant cinematography from Julio Macat (whose work on "The Wedding Planner" will also be able to be viewed on DVD starting this week as well) and a fun, fast score from the almost-always reliable John Debney. "Cats and Dogs" isn't quite perfect, but it's a suprisingly fresh, fun and energetic piece of Summer entertainment that all ages can enjoy. Highly Recommended.