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“Must Love Dogs.”

They have non-animated dogs? And the dogs talk? I am excited already. The new live action Disney comedy Beverly Hills Chihuahua is complete family entertainment. And yes it has talking dogs. I was a little concerned at the outset and was worried this was going to be a cheesy, unoriginal script geared toward those 8 and under. (Remember Curious George?) Though it started a little rocky it finally got its footing and ended strong. And did I mention the dogs talk?

The story revolves around a pampered Chihuahua named Chloe (voice of Drew Barrymore) who gets lost in Mexico due to an irresponsible sitter, Rachel (Piper Perabo). It is up to a lone street smart German Shepherd (voice of Andy Garcia) to try and get her back to her Beverly Hills home safely and steer clear of local dog-nappers and illegal dog fight owners. Also in search of her is a blue collar Chihuahua named Papi (voice of George Lopez) who will stop at nothing to find the dog he loves. Chloe must get home safe and sound before her owner (Jamie Lee Curtis) discovers she is missing.

Call me clueless, but I have to admit that while watching this film I sometimes forgot the dogs where not really talking. They filmed using more than 200 real live dogs including Dobermans, German Shepherds, Chihuahuas, Poodles, Pugs, and a few mutts thrown in for good measure. Some were rescued from shelters in Los Angeles and Mexico, some were seasoned Hollywood dogs. Using the animals own facial expressions and body movements added to the realness of the scenes. As a dog lover it was so easy to bond to the animals and I had no problem imagining them talking. It was all seamless and perfect. Trainers used repetition and positive reinforcement techniques, a tactic that impressed filmmakers. “It’s incredible to watch Mike and his crew work,” says producer John Jacobs. “They have a way of encouraging dogs so that the dogs respond incredibly. I’ve never seen anything like it.” Neither had I.

There are many positive messages in this film too. They make not to subtle hints about the importance of adopting and how all dogs need a home where they can be loved and feel part of the family. Too there is a bit of Chihuahua history mixed in to help understand those little shaky dogs. The story is not only for canines but a positive human message is included. Chloe has to find her voice in order to discover who she truly is. I think we as humans sometimes need to discover our voice and know that we are far more than the clothes on our back or the address on our tag. And more importantly, so are those around us.

Beverly Hills Chihuahua is a laugh out loud movie that will have you cheering and pulling for these four legged adventures. It is rated PG for some mild thematic elements. There are a few scenes of animal danger plus one of the Dobermans is a little on the scary side. This is certainly a safe film for your entire family and it is rare that one comes along that every one can have fun at. So take advantage of that. Although Disney still can’t touch Pixar when it comes to animated adventure, here they show they are still top dog in the live action family realm.

“Matt is a member of the North Texas Film Critics Association (NTFCA) and hosts a daily online talk show along with a weekend radio feature, The Mungles on Movies, with his wife Cindy. For additional reviews, interview clips and great DVD giveaways, visit the website www.mungleshow.com”

Review copyright 2008 Mungleshow Productions. Used by Permission.

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