Monday, 14 September 2020

Cats & Dogs 3: Paws Unite! (Movie Review)

It's never a good sign when a new installment of an already-established franchise goes direct-to-video. But a part of me still hoped Cats & Dogs 3: Paws Unite! would offer something worthwhile. I mean, even the recent Disney+ exclusive, The One and Only Ivan, turned out better than I'd anticipated. And in a year where we've gotten big tentpole releases like Mulan choosing to skip theaters as well, the direct-to-video label doesn't seem to carry the same kind of stigma it once did. Except Cats & Dogs 3 is genuinely one of the worst films to claw its way into people's homes this year.

The movie continues the story of the long-waging war between cats and dogs. At the start of the film, both species have been enjoying a ten-year truce, a peace that is held together by the activities of a coverts operations agency called FART (Yep, you read that right). They basically monitor the activities of all cats and dogs around the world, making sure that none is caught breaking the law. But after a mysterious signal causes both species to become hostile to one another once again, the agency puts together a team to get to the bottom of the mystery.

This includes Gwen (voiced by Melissa Rauch), a house cat whose owners are going through a potential eviction from their apartment. And she is joined by Roger (voiced by Max Greenfield), a dog whose owner is an aspiring Tennis prodigy with an overcontrolling mother. Gwen considers Roger to be her biggest rival, but they are both forced to put aside their differences as they try to chase down the signal to its source, while also trying to keep their human masters happy and blissfully unaware.

The previous Cats & Dogs movies weren't exactly known for their quality. And the makers of this one seem to realize that as well, leaning into the fact for what I can only imagine was supposed to be comedic effect. Unfortunately, the movie just comes across as cheap and poorly made, and not self-aware as they'd clearly intended. Everything from the plot, to the acting, and the special effects, felt like a downgrade from the first two movies, making it the worst one of the bunch.

But chances are you aren't going into this movie excepting it to be brilliant. After all, even campy movies like this come with their own kind of appeal. I'd be lying if I said watching it wasn't utterly cringe-inducing though, as I found myself laughing for all the wrong reasons. The film also felt like it was in dire need of a proper villain, one in the same vein as Mr. Tinkles from the previous films. We instead get the talented George Lopez, relegated to voicing a parrot that never once felt imposing or anything but silly.

Cats & Dogs 3 is a direct-to-video release true and true. It might not be the worst film I have seen this year, but it is certainly a top contender, with too many leaps of logic, and characters arriving at certain conclusions simply because the script dictated they should. But I guess all that comes with the territory, and as such, it is very hard for me to recommend it to anyone but the most diehard fans of the previous films.

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