I dreaded this film.
No, really. Every single time I saw the poster for "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" in the movie theatre I cringed.
I tried to talk myself out of reviewing the film. After all, it's fairly critic proof. You're either going to enjoy it or you're not. I'm not exactly Disney's demographic for the film, ya know?
While the dread didn't quite measure up to, say, the upcoming "Saw V," it was still quite palpable.
Dread not, my dear friends, while "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" isn't going to be knocking on any doors or prancing across any podiums come awards season, it's actually not a half bad flick and, even more importantly, its target demographic of families with smaller children are likely to find the film at least modestly entertaining.
The story, and oddly enough there is one, centers around a live-action pet owner (Jamie Lee Curtis) who entrusts her beloved chihuahua to a not so beloved niece (Piper Perabo). The niece and the chihuahua end up on a Mexican vacation (C'mon are you really expecting reality from a talking dog film?) and, of course, before long the beloved chihuahua, Chloe (voiced by Drew Barrymore), ends up on the rough streets of a Mexican city fending off dogfighting baddies.
Remember, I said this film is for kids. Just go with it.
Director Raja Gosnell (the "Scooby-Doo" films) actually makes this film work far better than one might expect it to work, and the children that surrounded me at my screening often squealed with delight throughout the film.
Heck, if I'm being honest, I might've squealed a time or two myself.
"Beverly Hills Chihuahua" is a Disney film, so it goes without saying that it's filled to the brim with positive messages and inspiring characters, though oddly enough the largely Hispanic cast seems to be left with most of the film's throwaway lines.
On the other hand, Barrymore is utterly delightful as Chloe, giving the young chihuahua enough zest, energy and spirit to make even the smallest child want to run out to get their very own chihuahua (bad idea!). Andy Garcia also excels, though Marin and Lopez, in particular, are sabotaged by several of the film's weaker jokes.
Among the live action performers, Jamie Lee Curtis does her usual fine job while Perabo pales in comparison.
After weeks of dreading "Beverly Hills Chihuahua," I'm pleased to report that it may very well be the best offering out there currently for families, especially given the darker nature of "City of Ember," a film that may hold stronger appeal for the older children.
Lightweight but surprisingly entertaining, "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" is a decent choice for families needing an alternative to the fall season's heavier films as we get ready for awards season.
by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic