Cats & Dogs: Paws Unite! (2 stars)

Cats & Dogs: Paws Unite!

This second-rate revival of the animal adventure series is mildly amusing at best

From Sean McNamara, the man who brought us such unforgettable titles as Orphan Horse, Field of Lost Shoes and Treehouse Hostage, comes the third film in the Cats & Dogs franchise. This stand-alone sequel emerges a decade after the last effort and went direct-to-digital in the US. It's marked by a sudden plunge in star wattage; with predecessors which boasted Jeff Goldblum, Alec Baldwin, Susan Sarandon and Christina Applegate amongst their cast, the biggest names this latest effort can muster are New Girl's Max Greenfield and The Big Bang Theory's Melissa Rauch.

Perhaps it shouldn't matter, but it's not uncommon for family fare to use such talent to throw a juicy bone to accompanying adults; anyone unfortunate enough to be badgered into seeing this one will have to content themselves with scraps. This live-action / CG hybrid is an uninspired combination of animal espionage and adolescent angst that finds the fragile truce between cats and dogs tested when a nefarious 'secondary' pet uses technology to force a rupture. It's down to secret agents Roger (a dog voiced by Greenfield) and Gwen (Rauch, playing a cat) to save the day. Meanwhile, their human companions Zoe and Max (Sarah Giles and Callum Seagram Airlie) deal with a downbeat former grunge star dad and a pushy tennis mum respectively.

Mildly amusing at best, Paws Unite! fails to bust out of the budget kids' film mould with uninspired visuals, ropey effects and derivative story ideas. Some of the scenes in Paw Street Market, a pet shop home to a bunch of rebel critters, flirt with being funny – there's a surreal and anarchic streak in evidence as the dastardly Pablo the Parrot (George Lopez) loses himself in hyperbole and a succession of mad hats.

Unfortunately, it's brought crashing down to earth by more earnest and not particularly convincing scenes of human drama. There are attempts to engage with relatable teen issues, but it seems unlikely many will be watching and the film's lazy, 'it'll be alright in the end' tendencies don't help. Plus, when the best gag is that the acronym of the animals' secret peacekeeping organisation accidently spells 'fart', you know you're in trouble.

Available to watch in cinemas from Fri 2 Oct.

Cats & Dogs: Paws Unite!

  • 2 stars
  • 2020
  • US
  • 1h 24min
  • U
  • Directed by: Sean McNamara
  • Cast: Princess Davis, Sarah Giles, Max Greenfield

Gwen the Cat and Roger the Dog are secret agents who save the world without humans knowing. A supervillain parrot hatches a devious scheme to break the long-standing truce between cats and dogs, and it's up to Gwen and Roger to stop him.