By Gannett News Service
The first 30 minutes of the kids’ film “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” are almost unwatchable. It’s full of creepy, talking pampered pooches and their annoying owners.
You know how irritating it is when people use baby talk to communicate with their animals? Well, the first third of “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” is full of the tiresome sight of Jamie Lee Curtis calling her Chihuahua “snookums” and carrying the pet in her purse. Ugh.
But about the time you’ll be sadistically dreaming of having “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” put to sleep, the movie miraculously turns around, providing clever jokes, nifty special effects and some admittedly manipulative but cute moments.
Our favorite characters? A scheming pack rat (the voice of Cheech Marin) and his iguana partner (Paul Rodriguez) who run a creative but disgusting con.
Good, too, is an ill-tempered Doberman (Edward James Olmos) who wants to, well, eat the film’s heroine, Chloe, (Drew Barrymore), the pampered Chihuahua at the center of the movie.
The film opens as Chloe’s owner (Curtis) leaves her beloved pet with her niece (Piper Perabo) to go on a business trip. The niece, though, decides to take Chloe on a quick jaunt to Mexico, where the dog promptly gets kidnapped by a dog-fighting ring and shipped off to Mexico City.
It’s about here when “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” hits its stride. Chloe, who’s essentially offered up as an appetizer for that Doberman , escapes with the help of a German shepherd (Andy Garcia, giving a noble voice to the pooch) and various other four-legged friends. Chloe’s goal is to get back to the good life in Beverly Hills.
Director Raja Gosnell keeps the final two-thirds of the film moving at a brisk pace and also providing some surprises, be it a confrontation with mountain lions or a visit to an ancient Mayan temple run by a race of Chihuahuas with superpowers. (Don’t ask.)
The film also looks great. Most films depict Mexico City as a sprawling, grime-filled metropolis. But Gosnell – not surprising because “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” is a Disney film – Disney-fies Mexico City, turning it into a clean and sparkling place full of luxury hotels, museums and colorful street fairs.
If you can survive the first 30 minutes of “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” – and trust us, it’s not an easy task – you won’t regret getting dragged to the theater by the child in your life. In fact, your biggest problem might be ignoring your kid’s plea for a dog after the house lights go up.
Rated: PG for some mild thematic elements. 2.5 stars out of 4.