It's been nine years since the release of "Cats & Dogs," and I don't recall hearing anyone openly request a second installment. Fresh from the file of needless sequels comes "Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore," which doesn't quite sequelize as much as rework the central premise of household pets as international spies. Handed a fresh generation of special effects and a new cast, "Kitty Galore" gets about as far as the original, working itself into a lather that generates zero laughs and even less excitement.
A police pooch about to be retired due to his reckless behavior, Diggs (voiced by James Marsden) has been offered a slot on an elite team of spy dogs. Paired with gruff Butch (Nick Nolte), Diggs learns that evil feline mastermind Kitty Galore (Bette Midler) is about to unleash "The Call of the Wild," a deadly high-pitched noise, upon dogs everywhere, driving them all mad. Committed to bringing Kitty Galore down, Diggs and Butch need the help of pigeon witness Seamus (Katt Williams) to put the clues together, while cat spy Catherine (Christina Applegate) joins the fight, forcing a rare truce between the warring animal kingdoms, all in the name of saving the world.
It doesn't take long to grasp the notion that the screenwriters and director Brad Peyton weren't exactly charged up to make a sequel to a forgotten film from 2001. Helping to snap the franchise awake is a torrent of self-referential humor and a multitude of movie references. The majority of the picture pays tribute to the Roger Moore-era James Bond films and Sir Moore even makes a cameo as a finicky feline leader of the M.E.O.W.S. organization, named Lazenby. Hee-hee. The filmmakers also construct a Maurice Binder-style opening title sequence for the picture (employing Shirley Bassey's cover of Pink's "Get the Party Started"), and script a character named Paws, a vicious Kitty Galore henchman with thick metal teeth. It's overtly cutesy material, playing only to adult viewers, but it does offer the filmmakers something to work with before the numbness of the whole endeavor sinks in.
Peyton has an eye for nifty special effects, and "Kitty Galore" is a striking technical challenge to observe. Mixing live animals, CG-creations, and wonderful puppetry, the titular rivals come to life convincingly, deployed in a cartoon manner that has the pooches and kitties globetrotting and engaging in high-flying stunts. My frustration with "Kitty Galore" isn't with the film's appearance, but its flaccid sense of humor. The script pushes hard to come across witty, even summoning an extended "Silence of the Lambs" joke to return fiendish cat Mr. Tinkles (Sean Hayes) to the action, but the effort fails completely. "Kitty Galore" doesn't kick up a single laugh, despite a frantic slapstick effort and off-putting movie nerd references. It's just lifeless, monotonous material, though I do give the filmmakers credit for staying away from a great deal of bathroom humor.
The AVC encoded image (1:78:1 aspect ratio) presentation for the film rests on the bright side, with a bold colors and well-lit interiors making the visuals pop with a special cartoon splendor. Hues push right on through, with blues and greens making a strong impression. Detail is readily available, with animal fur looking lifelike, while CG-elements are saddled with all sorts of spy mechanics and animal reactions. Everything remains in clear view. Shadow detail is supportive, great with costuming and darker fur.
The 5.1 DTS-HD sound mix holds true to the action-adventure genre, offering a busy track teeming with separated sound effects and atmospheric touches, feeling clean and dimensional throughout. Scoring is active, winding around the surrounds, while soundtrack cuts and action beats permit the film a hearty low-end contribution. Dialogue emerges from a circular space of characters, with voices processed crisply, leaving the often frantic exchanges understandable. The track is wonderfully energetic without hitting any shrillness, supporting the visuals with a lively run of audio details. French, Spanish, and Portuguese mixes are also available.
English SDH, French, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles are offered.
"Dogs Dishing: Tails from the Bark Side of Hollywood" (8:59) is the making-of featurette for the film, taking a more comical angle to discussing the challenges of the animal cast. It's not very informative, despite some amusing BTS footage that reveals how the furry stars were coaxed into performances.
"Meow-Takes: Outtakes and Gag Reel" (3:34) is a highly scripted collection of mix-em-ups, assembled to promote the film.
"The Best of the Best Cat vs. Dog Animated Showdowns" (4:34) is a commercial for the film, where the animal cast comments on cartoon action from the Hanna-Barbera and Looney Tunes archives.
"Coyote Falls" (3:00) is a CG-animated Looney Tunes short, highlighting the eternal struggle between the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote.
A Theatrical Trailer has not been included.
The live-action cast puts the likes of Chris O'Donnell into play (as Diggs's human BFF), so there's little hope to be found there, leaving the film to scramble madly for bellylaughs it never achieves. Honestly, this concept howled feebly in 2001, making a second chapter bewildering, at least without a sizable effort to sharpen the picture's comedic aim. Even at 75 minutes, "Kitty Galore" feels endless. I can only hope it'll take another decade before the producers decide to bleed this concept dry yet again.