'Beverly Hills Chihuahua'
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McClatchy Newspapers (MCT) - Only the meanest of grouches can resist a talking-animal movie. But no one, absolutely no one, is immune to the charms of a talking-"dog" picture. Even a film as shabby and humdrum as "Beverly Hills Chihuahua," which never musters up the wit and beauty of a single frame of "Lady and the Tramp," is not without its pleasures.
The titular heroine is Chloe (voiced by Drew Barrymore), a personable pooch ridiculously pampered by her owner Viv (Jamie Lee Curtis). Chloe is the center of Viv's life, but when she has to travel out of the country on business, she entrusts the dog to the care of her niece Rachel (Piper Perabo), who isn't quite as enamored of the pint-size princess.
When her friends seduce her into a weekend excursion to Mexico, Rachel takes Chloe along and manages to lose her faster than you can say "Viva Zapata!" With her diamond-studded collar and designer booties, Chloe quickly catches the attention of a ring of dog fighters, who plot to hold the mutt for ransom.
Although "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" keeps track of what the human characters are doing, the bulk of the film is set in the animals' universe, where Chloe befriends a gallant German shepherd (an excellent Andy Garcia) who protects her from Mexico's mean streets. Other canines figuring into the plot include Papi (George Lopez), a lovestruck chihuahua who will do anything to win Chloe's paw, and El Diablo (Edward James Olmos), a dangerous Doberman working for the bad guys.
Director Raja Gosnell ("Scooby-Doo"), working from a script by Analisa LaBianco and Jeffrey Bushell, has no qualms about who his target audience is. "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" won't exactly transfix grown-ups, but its parade of loquacious critters (which also includes an iguana and a rat) is likely to delight youngsters. There's only one sequence in the film that is genuinely magical: An interlude in which Chloe discovers the original birthplace of all chihuahuas in the Sonoran desert. The sequence is funny, unexpected and imaginative. The rest of "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" is merely cute.
BEVERLY HILLS CHIHUAHUA
2 ˝ stars
Cast: Piper Perabo, Manolo Cardona, Jamie Lee Curtis.
Voices: Drew Barrymore, Andy Garcia, George Lopez, Cheech Marin, Paul Rodriguez, Placido Domingo, Edward James Olmos, Luis Guzman, Loretta Devine
Director: Raja Gosnell
Screenwriters: Analisa LaBianco, Jeffrey Bushell
Producers: David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman, John Jacobs
A Walt Disney Pictures release. Running time: 85 minutes
Rated PG: some mildly scary moments of dogs in peril
© 2008, The Miami Herald.