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To: Scott Weinberg, managing editor, Cinematical
From: Eric D. Snider, blogger/reviewer
Subject: Beverly Hills Chihuahua
Hey Scott --
When you assigned me to review Beverly Hills Chihuahua, I assumed it was because we both expected it to be terrible, and you knew I would enjoy writing a review ripping it apart. The film's trailers certainly don't do it any favors, and the basic premise alone -- a spoiled lapdog gets lost in Mexico and has to find her way home -- almost makes me reconsider my career path.
So I'm afraid I have to disappoint you by reporting that, as it turns out, Beverly Hills Chihuahua isn't awful. It's not even really annoying. It's actually kind of ... almost ... sort of ... OK.
I know! I was as surprised as you are skeptical. And I know what you're going to say. You're going to point out that I also kind of liked Yours, Mine & Ours, which -- heaven help me -- was made by the same director, Raja Gosnell. In my defense, let me remind you that I hated Big Momma's House and the Scooby-Doo movies, which he also directed. I am by no means a Raja Gosnell apologist. If such a thing as a Raja Gosnell apologist exists, I am not it.
But Beverly Hills Chihuahua -- or BHC, as the kids are calling it -- isn't the braying, garish nightmare that the trailers make it out to be, or that we've come to expect from Disney's live-action-excrement factory. In fact, once it gets the dumb "Talk to the paw!" jokes out of its system, it's actually a reasonably charming, mostly benign kids' movie that adults can watch without their heads exploding. I even laughed a few times. Honest-to-goodness laughter!
The fancy dog, named Chloe, is voiced by Drew Barrymore. Her owner, Viv (Jamie Lee Curtis), is one of those idiots who make their dogs wear clothes and put little booties on their feet. Chloe loves the posh lifestyle and looks down her snout at Papi (voice of George Lopez), a fellow chihuahua who belongs to Viv's landscaper and is thus of a lower social class.
Then Viv takes off for a few days and leaves her niece, Rachel (Piper Perabo), in charge of her beloved Chloe. Rachel, being a reasonable person, thinks the way Chloe is pampered is ludicrous. But Rachel is also a little irresponsible, which is why she and her girlfriends drive to Tijuana to party all weekend. They take Chloe with them, and Chloe gets lost at the hotel and gets abducted by a shady cabal of dogfight organizers. Why you would want a prissy chihuahua in a dogfight, I don't know. Is there an audience for that?
Chloe and the other dogs escape, and she partners up with a German shepherd named Delgado (Andy Garcia). Scott, I have to tell you, I love Delgado. He's a former police dog who had to leave the force after a troubling incident that he doesn't want to talk about. He calls Chloe "Kid" and uses a gruff exterior to hide his inner goodness. He insists she's not his responsibility, but he keeps coming back to help her. He's the canine version of the type of movie character we've seen a thousand times before -- almost a parody, but not quite.
While Delgado is helping Chloe head north, Rachel and the landscaper (Manolo Cardona) and his Papi are in Mexico searching for her. There's also a streetwise iguana (Paul Rodriguez) and rat (Cheech Marin) who conspire to steal Chloe's diamond collar, and an evil doberman, Diablo (Edward James Olmos), who's been sent by the dogfight guys to retrieve her. Diablo happens to be Delgado's arch nemesis from his police dog days.
The story gets more and more bizarre as it goes, with Chloe eventually stumbling into her ancestral homeland of Chihuahua, where thousands of her kind dwell among the Mayan ruins and are led by a prophet figure named Montezuma (Plácido Domingo). Here the chihuahuas reject the foolishness of Chloe's lifestyle: "We are not toys or fashion accessories!" they cry. "¡No más!"
It's all ridiculous, but it has an air of self-awareness to it. The dialogue (by TV writer Jeff Bushnell and first-timer Analisa LaBianco) is sprinkled with Spanish, the story teaches kids to embrace their heritage and not make assumptions about people based on their appearance, and Delgado finds happiness in the end. So does Chloe, of course, and Papi, and everybody else, but mostly I was concerned about Delgado. He reminds me of a couple dogs I knew in my childhood, you see. They're great dogs, German shepherds. Very smart, very loyal. Man, I loved those dogs.
Anyway, I'm sorry I couldn't write a really funny, scathing review of BHC. I know it seemed like there was no possible way the film could be anything less than horrific ... and yet here we are. I might need a few days off. My world is kind of upside-down right now.