Cats & Dogs

“Cats & Dogs” is a 2001 film made by Warner Brothers that follows the story of a beagle who becomes a secret agent for the canine army. Long story short, it is the age old cats versus dogs tale, with the added elements of spy agencies that were popular in the late 90’s and early 2000’s (Totally Spies, Spy Kids, Agent Cody Banks, Inspector Gadget, etc.) The film has mediocre reviews, including a whopping 5.1/10 according to IMDb.

Neither Lucy nor I were really excited for this one. Neither of us are big fans of dogs, and I had unpleasant memories about watching the trailer for this film over and over as a child because my VCR was messed up and would rewind and repeat on its own. But alas, this movie was on Netflix so we decided to give it a shot.

Synopsis:

A young beagle named Lou is adopted into the Brody family, of which the father is a scientist trying to find a cure for his dog allergies. Lou and the other neighborhood dogs are charged with protecting this secret formula from their enemies, the cats. The cats are lead by a white Persian named Mr. Tinkles (played by two cat actors named Foster and Fritz), and their goal is to steal the formula and tweak it to make all humans allergic to dogs, allowing cats to take over the world.

Spoiler Alert:

As expected, in the end the dogs win and the cats are defeated.

Impressions:

The film did, admittedly, have some pretty funny moments. Mostly in the dialogue. For an example, skip to 1:23 in the Mr. Tinkles introduction scene on Youtube, linked below.

For 2001, the CGI wasn’t too bad. Cartoonish and hokey? Very much so, but it wasn’t unbearable to watch. There was a semi-racist segment where some “ninja” cats were given stereotypical Japanese accents. I don’t know how to feel about that :/

The writing, apart from the jokes, was pretty bland and the human acting was not great (sorry, Jeff Goldblum.) There were also multiple story points that felt forced; a hinted past romance between two dogs, a tragic white-male-hero-dog backstory, etc. Sure, this was a kids movie, but that is no excuse. The animal acting (in the scenes without CGI) was great however, all of the animals were very well trained.

Analysis:

From the very beginning, this film codes cats as evil and pompous; dogs on the other hand are portrayed as brave, noble, and righteous. I have always had a big problem with this. This issue is rampant in media and in real life. Everyone says that cats aren’t loving or loyal. Not only is it an overdone trope, it’s false.  I believe that this attitude reveals something important and concerning about some people.

Cats are, in general, stereotyped as evil little selfish assholes. Why? From the moment humans adopt dogs as puppies, dogs are taught to not bite or nip or bark or growl at their humans, even if the human is hurting or annoying them, so dogs learn that they shouldn’t nip or bark, i.e. have boundaries. This is very much part of a little something called ‘learned helplessness.’ Humans teach their dogs to put up with things that may be causing them stress. Essentially, it’s the human-to-dog version of ‘toughen up’ and ‘deal with it’. On the other hand, humans who share homes with cats have learned that cats, like humans, have their boundaries and are very passionate about them. If a cat doesn’t want to be stroked, they will let you know. It doesn’t mean that the cat hates you, it means they need their space.

If you don’t want to be hugged and someone hugs you anyways, you have every right to shove them away. And yet, I have seen so many ‘dog people’ dismiss cats as unloving creatures.  What this tells me, dear reader, is that cats are so hated because they cannot be controlled by a human. Cats have boundaries. Cats won’t roll over to entertain you, cats won’t play fetch when you want them to. They don’t always come when whistled for. They don’t dance for you like an organ-grinder monkey. I have been scratched by my cats. And bitten, and swatted. But not once have I ever blamed them or punished them. Why? Because it was always my fault. I ignored or missed the warning signs.

Even though these girls don’t constantly give or demand attention, I love them and I believe that they love me. We can sit in companionable silence and be content. I don’t need them to wag their tails, I can tell they love me in the way they blink.

Lucy cries when I leave home. She runs to greet me when I return.

Lucy brings me gifts of toys and corks and bottle caps and walnuts.

Kringle brings me mice and bugs, it’s gross yes, but she wants to make sure I’m fed.

Lucy sleeps in the crook of my arm at night, she’ll lick my face when I’m sad.

Kringle goes on walks with me. Mojo sits in the sun with me.

When I brush or pet my cats, they always lick my hand in return.

These are little things, quirks one might say, but in the feline language these behaviors are signs of affection.

Do not expect cats to behave like dogs, because they aren’t dogs. If you go through life basing the value of an animal off of how much active affection it gives you, you might be a narcissist. Treat your cats and your dogs how they deserve to be treated; with kindness and respect. Learn their warning signs, respect them just as you would respect a fellow human’s triggers or limits.

Final Impressions of the movie, which was the original topic:

The story was… cute, we suppose.

Lucy was actually awake for most of this film. The loud noises startled her a bit and she did hate the dogs though, so her scoring will bring down the overall grade.

I on the other hand, surprised myself and did not hate it as much as I thought I would. Would I watch it again? Maybe. Probably the next time I’m home sick.

Cat Screentime Ratio: Cats take up about 16 minutes out of the total 1 hour and 27 minutes, approximately 18% of the film. A low percentage, but considering that the main character was a beagle, I suppose the number isn’t too shabby.

Final Score: C+

References:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vAd0QlUaIBY

https://www.britannica.com/science/learned-helplessness

http://www.humanehollywood.org/index.php/movie-archive/item/cats-and-dogs

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