Unamusingly Shallow, Let Alone Easy-to-foretell

Nowadays, classism is a strong factor in relationships. Anyone can find that palatable message in this slim plot surrounding a pampered Chihuahua who lives in Beverly Hills, as they enter the canine world and see the classism and racism of adults personified in their pets in Beverly Hills Chihuahua.

Spoiled rotten by her indulgent owner, Vivian (Jamie Lee Curtis), a prissy little white Chihuahua named Chloe (voice of Drew Barrymore), the diamond-clad, bootie wearing queen of the Beverly Hills canine scene spends her life waddling around in little doggie booties and wears cashmere and a necklace from Harry Winston. She enjoys her luxurious lifestyle so much she hardly notices Papi (voice of George Lopez), a confident macho brown Chihuahua who happens to be crazy for the pampered pooch. The supposed laugh fest begins when high-class, high-maintenance, yet ever-conscientious Vivian decides to go on a vacation to Europe for ten days where poor Chloe is not welcome. That leaves Chloe in the irresponsible hands of her more spoiled rotten, self-absorbed, and therefore feckless niece, Rachel (Piper Perabo) who high-tail it off to Mexico, Chloe in tow. Rachel’s idea of being responsible is making sure her champagne glass remains full. More concerned about partying, sunbathing, and meeting guys, Rachel lets Chloe get away from her. Then Chloe gets picked up by a dog-napper, who wants to use her in a floating illegal dogfight enterprise. However, Delgado (Andy Garcia), a noble, protective, beleaguered, and street-wise ex-police German Shepherd, orchestrates a jailbreak for several of the dogs. Meanwhile he rescues her while on the run from a band of dogfighters, just before her opponent, a vicious Doberman named Diablo (Edward James Olmos) can rip her to shreds. Papi heads south of the border, joining forces with a heterogeneous crew: two humans, a sly rat (voice of Cheech Marin) and a nervous iguana (voice of Paul Rodriguez), to rescue Papi’s true love. The rest of the film is the story of titular pampered pooch Chloe and her new friend try to get her home.

Although it has a few other lessons way up its sleeve, this simple tale that lacks the depth about dogs is shallow in the many of the values it presents. Decorated with a simple message that each one of us is valuable and has inherent gifts we must each discover, Chloe and Delgado end up in the care of the Chihuahua tribe where she is told of her true worth. Rather than coming from her clothes and diamonds, Chloe is told that her worth comes from being who she really is with her own unique bark. It also emphasizes the importance of friendship and love in a world where those we love can fall into danger and need our help, and the importance of courage and commitment to help them.

However, along with boring adventures of self discovery, director Gosnell’s live-action canine quest offers shallow lessons about ethnic prejudice and class distinctions while also portraying the personality-twisting effects of materialism. Biased and discriminatory attitudes based on distinctions made between social or economic classes are everywhere and you can find that in Chloe as well. She is superficial, selfish, and supercilious. When she ignores Papi’s eloquent invitation for a relationship, she does so simply because he is of a working class. Though in Beverly Hills, Papi is not in her class and is not considered by her as a suitable suitor. But when Papi discovers that Chloe has been dog-napped, Papi never questions that his small size could keep him from being able to rescue her and he sets out to bring her home motivated by his undying love and courageous spirit. Rachel will slowly show some personal transformation by learning to focus on others, pairing the adults she meets with dogs who need a permanent home. Gosnell also awkwardly inserts a subplot about Chloe learning of her heritage and discovering her true bark. The effect of Chloe and Rachel discovering who they are opens them both to romance is just way too illusory. It’s so difficult for someone to identify with the restoration of Delgado’s abilities that allows him to be returned to active duty because it never happens to anyone in real life either.

Unamusingly shallow, let alone easy-to-foretell, Beverly Hills Chihuahua may be offensive because there are so many jokes that don’t make you laugh. Those who are looking for mainly inoffensive entertainment, and who don not mind the cheap attempts at humor, may enjoy Beverly Hills Chihuahua. Those who look for something better than a retread of themes from numerous better films should definitely stay away from this one.

Rating: 1/5

To see Beverly Hills Chihuahua in theatres, check your local listings, or visit the http://disney.go.com/disneypictures/beverlyhillschihuahua/

Criticetc is a journalist and critic in Bangkok and Pattaya, and at http://www.bkklive.com   and http://www.cinemania.com

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