Purse dogs unite!

Yes, Colin Browne went to see that talking dog movie, and here is his play-by-play account.

Long before uttering the phrase, “One for Beverly Hills Chihuahua please”, I had some reservations as to whether this was a good decision. The sparse attendance suggested either a mature ‘G’ rated film—too cerebral for the average 6 year old—or a steaming pile of raging disaster.

After 15 minutes of ads, previews, and one slightly older child falling on her face while sprinting up the stairs in excitement, so began another installment in the long line of talking animal movies, this one featuring a “bossy, arrogant, manipulative Beverly Hills Chihuahua” named Chloe, voiced by Drew Barrymore.

After a series of uninspired “talk to the paw” jokes and pampered lapdogs dishing at the puppy salon, I was just about ready to make a break for the late showing of High School Musical 3, when something curious happened—the story shifted to Mexico.

Cue the madness.

It seems Chloe’s owner Aunt Viv (Jamie Lee Curtis) had to go out of town, opting to leave the prissy white pooch with her irresponsible niece Rachel (Piper Perabo). As soon as Aunt Viv is out of the picture, Rachel and a group of friends who all look exactly the same head for the sunny skies of Mexico with Chloe in tow.

While adjusting to her new surroundings, Chloe is captured by a henchman of the evil criminal Vasquez (Jose Maria Yazpik) who runs a dog-fighting circuit in addition to holding a group of caged dogs for combat. The helpless Chloe, still dressed in a pink cashmere ensemble of booties, cape, and underwear, is thrown into the ring against El Diablo “The Demon Dog”—a vicious, slobbering Doberman and right-hand man to Vasquez.

A droopy-eyed German Shepherd named Delgado (voiced by Edward James Olmos) breaks out of his cage and rushes to the ring to save Chloe, in addition to freeing every other dog in the building.
All paws take to the streets as Chloe and Delgado pair up to find the hotel chain which recognizes Chloe as a preferred customer. Still wearing her diamond encrusted collar—which, somehow, no one in the entirety of Mexico had noticed or robbed up to this point—Chloe enters the hotel, with Delgado waiting outside.

Unfortunately, Delgado mistakes another dog eating in the hotel restaurant for Chloe, and skulks off, certain he has been used, when in reality, the now unkempt and smelly four-legged heiress is being thrown out the back door by a concierge.

Not to be outdone, Vasquez has equipped El Diablo with a Global positioning System in order to re-capture Chloe.

Back in Beverly Hills, Chloe’s friends imagine what grand adventures she must be indulging in, which at the time amounts to her sleeping in a box on the street. Learning of this circumstance, Aunt Viv’s gardener Sam (Manolo Cardona) and his dog Papi (a scruffy brown Chihuahua voiced by comedian George Lopez) set out for Mexico to help Rachel get the dog back.

Delgado returns in time to save Chloe from another tough predicament, but is furious to discover she has been conned out of her collar by a rat and an iguana. Now desperate, Delgado makes arrangements with an above-the-law Coyote who helps sneak collarless dogs across the border by hiding them in a boxcar. This particular coyote however, seems like he might take advantage of the precious little pooch, so Delgado changes his mind and in an action-packed sequence, makes a banzai jump for the train, just barely hanging on long enough to haul himself up and help keep Chloe safe.

Halfway through the ride, the two unexpectedly jump from the train, stranding themselves in a Mexican desert. Soon, they are cornered by 3 mountain lions, only to be rescued by a group of Chihuahuas who welcome Chloe and Delgado back to their home—the ancient land of Chihuahua, inhabited by hundreds of tiny dogs living amongst the ruins of Aztec civilization. Here, they encounter a wise and aged leader named Montezuma (Placido Domingo of all people) who preaches to his legion of devoted followers:

“We were not bred to wear silly hats and ride in purses,” he proclaims. “We know the power of our inner strength!”

“No Mas, No Mas!” the followers chant in Nazi-like unison, signifying their existence as something more than accessories.

With this newfound knowledge of her ancestry, Chloe begins to question her longstanding material nature. Delgado reveals that he is an ex-police dog who was kicked off the force after losing his scent in a trauma, of which it appears El Diablo may have been responsible. A bunch more capturing and rescuing later and Chloe is re-united with her loved ones, but will they be able to get back to Beverly Hills before Aunt Viv?

This film, minus the occasional creepy CGI dog smile or oddly intimate moment, is a surprisingly well-executed talking dog movie with a good sense of adventure and some fun characters. Its comment on the materialism of today’s culture is mild, but refreshing for a family movie, and the plot, while ridiculous, holds more weight than one might expect.

Plus, any film with a soundtrack featuring George Thorogood, Tag Team, and Enrique Iglesias is all right by me.

You might as well go see Beverly Hills Chihuahua at the Avalon Mall Empire Cinemas 12. Call 722-5775 for showtimes. Resistance is futile