Cats & Dogs: Paws Unite! comes, 10 years on, cold on the heels of its predecessor, 2010’s Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore – which was itself the sequel no one much wanted to 2001’s moderately pleasurable Cats & Dogs. It seems rather odd that it has taken nearly 20 years for this trilogy to unfold. Perhaps the producers were hoping we would all forget how bad each previous edition had been before they made another instalment?
Returns have diminished considerably with Paws Unite! The first film had Jeff Goldblum and Elizabeth Perkins hamming it up rather charmingly as the humans while Tobey Maguire, Alec Baldwin, Susan Sarandon and Sean Hayes, among others, voiced the other mammals in the cast. Revenge saw contributions from Bette Midler as villainess Kitty Galore, plus Nick Nolte, Christina Applegate and dear old Wallace Shawn, yet the end result was still nominated for a Razzie for Worst Eye-Gouging Misuse of 3D.
In Paws, peace has broken out between cats and dogs since Kitty Galore’s day. An orange puss named Gwen (voiced by Melissa Rauch) and a sheepdog named Roger (Max Greenfield) secretly keep watch on things as monitors for the organisation Furry Animals Rivalry Termination (or FART), when they’re not hanging around the apartments of their human companions waiting for treats or a pat on the head. Unfortunately, Pablo (George Lopez), a megalomaniac cockatoo, has plotted with a tech-savvy Tegu Lizard (Paul Dobson) to hack wifi networks worldwide in order to sow discord between cats and dogs again, thereby encouraging humans to adopt neglected non-canine or non-feline creatures like them.
Given how much CGI has come along since 2010, you’d expect a more convincing presentation of moving animals’ lips and eye muscles mimicking human expressions, but clearly the budget didn’t reach much beyond the tea budget for Tenet. That wouldn’t be much of a bother if there was a little more wit on show. As it is, the best –and only memorable – joke is a sight gag about Gwen and Roger settling who does what with games of rock-paper-scissors with their paws.
• Released 9 October in cinemas.