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Dustin Putman

Dustin's Review

Beverly Hills Chihuahua  (2008)
1 Star
Directed by Raja Gosnell.
Cast: Piper Perabo, Manolo Cardona, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jose Maria Yazpik, Maury Sterling, Ali Hillis, Marguerite Moreau, Nick Zano.
Voice Cast: Drew Barrymore, Andy Garcia, George Lopez, Cheech Marin, Paul Rodriguez, Placido Domingo, Edward James Olmos, Loretta Devine, Michael Urie, Luis Guzman.
2008 – 86 minutes
Rated: Rated PG (for some mild thematic elements).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, October 2, 2008.
The infamous song-and-dance number featured in the teaser trailer for "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" is nowhere to be found in the finished film. As much as it might have terrified adults and delighted children when originally released, it at least would have ignited some energy into what is a painfully unfunny, virtually charmless talking-animals pic. Garish and boring, wrapped in a message about, of all things, race relations between Mexicans and Americans, "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" features a spunky four-legged heroine who has no one of interest to play off of.

Chloe (voiced by Drew Barrymore) is a pampered-to-the-nth-degree Chihuahua who lives in the lap of luxury with her doting owner, entrepreneur Viv (Jamie Lee Curtis). When Viv sets off for Europe to launch her cosmetics line, she entrusts Chloe in the hands of her directionless niece Rachel (Piper Perabo). Not being the most responsible of adults, Rachel wastes no time in heading off to vacation in Mexico with girlfriends Angela (Ali Hillis) and Blair (Marguerite Moreau). Tired of being treated like a third (or would it be fourth?) wheel, Chloe leaves the safety of her hotel room and enters into a rough-and-tumble world the likes of which she's never experienced before. Narrowly escaping from a dogfighting ring and on the run from thief Vasquez (Jose Maria Yazpik), Chloe is taken under the wing of wise Delgado (voiced by Andy Garcia), a former police dog who has lost his sense of smell. Meanwhile, Rachel teams up with Viv's loyal gardener Sam (Manolo Cardona) to try and find the missing Chloe.

Director Raja Gosnell (2005's "Yours, Mine and Ours") is to go-to filmmaker for flavorless family movies, and so it stands to reason that he would be at the helm of "Beverly Hills Chihuahua." Animals are cute, there's no denying this, and talking animals can potentially be even cuter, but the ones populating the screenplay by Analisa LaBianco and Jeffrey Bushell are either as dull as a butter knife or as irritating at fingernails on a chalkboard. In the former group is Chloe's companion, Delgado, voiced by Andy Garcia (2007's "Ocean's Thirteen") with the commitment of an actor who has just taken a handful of Quaaludes. Also leaving something to be desired is Sam's dog Papi, possible love interest for Chloe, performed with a creepy sense of entitlement by George Lopez (2008's "Swing Vote"). On the other end of the spectrum of annoyance are a rat and lizard team by the names of Chico (Paul Rodriguez) and Manuel (Cheech Marin). They are what pass for comic relief, which is to say that they are supremely moronic and about as amusing as roadkill.

Chloe's adventure, if one wants to take the liberty of calling it such, is fraught with a few dangers and a little moralizing. Really, though, this plot is deadeningly unoriginal and then unbelievably ridiculous, climaxing on a laughable studio backlot made to look like Aztec ruins overrun by a community of united Chihuahuas. Say what? Drew Barrymore (2007's "Lucky You") is the sole beacon of light as Chloe, her California-girl vocal work and line readings spot-on. In a motion picture of smarts and wit, Chloe would thrive. In the company of lunkheads and snooze-inducers, her adorability quotient is brought down by those around her. When she comes to realize how spoiled she's been and, in a moment of doggie power, takes off her booties and tosses them from a moving train, it is the rare instance where the film quiets down enough to consider the symbolism of her actions.

The human side of the story is left even more hopeless and lacking. Is the viewer supposed to sympathize with Rachel, who neglects Chloe at the onset and then spends the remainder of the film lying to Aunt Viv about her pet's safety? Rachel has zero career aspirations and never fesses up to Viv—what great messages to send to impressionable youngsters in the audience!—but still somehow is viewed by director Raja Gosnell as being worthy enough to win the hunk at the end. As Rachel, Piper Perabo (2007's "Because I Said So") does what she can; it's not her fault that the character she is playing has few redeeming qualities. As Viv, Jamie Lee Curtis (2004's "Christmas with the Kranks") is criminally wasted in a nothing part. What did the lovely Curtis see in this project that she felt warranted coming out of semi-retirement for?

Little kids will most likely enjoy "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" for the barebones reason that it involves cute animals chattering up a storm. For everyone else, this is an unctuous waste of time that sends out as many wrong messages as it does valuable ones. It also manages to stereotype Mexican locals even as it proclaims to rail against prejudice, but the film is so inconsequential that this hardly bears mentioning. Just because a movie is targeted to families does not mean that it needs to be lame-brained and dumbed-down. Most children are savvier than "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" gives them credit for. Or, at least, I'd like to think so.
© 2008 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman