Beverly Hills Chihuahua
It's not often a Disney movie comes with a disclaimer but Beverly Hills Chihuahua has one pasted into the closing credits where, unfortunately, most of the audience will miss it. The statement encourages viewers to carefully consider the commitment of pet ownership before getting a dog.
It's easy to understand the reason behind the rider. Dalmatians surged in popularity after the updated release of 101 Dalmatians and already Chihuahuas are becoming trendy among more than the fabulously rich of Beverly Hills.
Yet most dog owners won't be able to outfit their puppies in an array of cashmere sweaters, stylish bikinis and designer diamonds that Aunt Vivian (Jamie Lee Curtis) does. As the force behind an exclusive, upscale company, this woman has plenty of money to splurge on her little pet, Chloe (voice by Drew Barrymore). However, when the business mogul is called out of town for a promotions tour, the only person she can find to dog-sit is her rather irresponsible niece, Rachel (Piper Perabo).
Heading out with her friends for a weekend visit to Mexico, Rachel promptly disregards Chloe's routine of spa treatments and prime rib dinners in favor of a cheap hotel and canned dog food. But after leaving the Chihuahua alone in the rented room, Rachel returns to find the miniature pedigreed pooch is missing.
On the lookout for new competitors, a band of illegal dogfighters has scooped Chloe up and tossed her into a makeshift cage where the pampered puppy awaits her turn in the ring with a Doberman (voice by Edward James Olmos). Luckily another stray takes compassion on the little quivering canine and before long Delgado (voice by Andy Garcia) reluctantly agrees to help Chloe find her way back to her expensive California estate. Meanwhile, Rachel and Aunt Vivian's Hispanic landscaper, Sam (Manolo Cardona) are hot on Chloe's trail with the help of Sam's dog, Papi (voice by George Lopez).
While adults shouldn't expect too much from this doggy adventure, the film seemed to resonate with the under 12 crowd in the theater I attended. Addressing cultural and economic disparities that are becoming increasingly prevalent in multicultural societies, the script goes beyond a simple lost mutt story. Used to spending her time in expensive boutiques, Rachel has no appreciation for Sam's skill in the garden, his intellect or his dedication to her aunt. Likewise, Chloe's snooty attitude toward Papi is unbearable, even for a dog. Fortunately both "girls" are ultimately able to look past those exterior differences and appreciate the "guys" for who they are. Chloe's introduction to her breed's history also helps change this lapdog from a snobbish pooch into a four-legged heroine.
With lively Latin tunes and some adult-oriented jokes about the spending habits of the excessively rich, Beverly Hills Chihuahua isn't the dog of a story I was anticipating. And while some moments of peril and slapstick-style violence make it inappropriate for very young or sensitive viewers, this scruffy script about friendship, teamwork and believing in yourself is one most kids will likely enjoy.