Rating: 3 stars
They can make a convincing haunted pirate ship, but Disney still hasn’t quite mastered the talking dog. Maybe I’m asking too much. After all, dogs can’t really talk. So trying to have their little doggy lips curl around actual human words is bound to look fake. I just wanted it to look a little less fake, you know?
That being said, Beverly Hills Chihuahua has good bones. It’s actually an ingenious concept—frou-frou lapdog Chloe (the voice of Drew Barrymore) goes on an adventure in the real world and learns to be, well, a dog.
As our story begins, Chloe is doted on by her well-meaning, if slightly clueless owner, fashion designer Vivienne (Jamie Lee Curtis)—and it’s an endless banquet of mani-pedis, poolside puppy playdates, and doggie haute couture. Chloe has an admirer, in true DH Lawrence tradition, a swarthy landscaping Chihuahua named Papi (loveable George Lopez).
When Vivienne goes on a last-minute business trip, she leaves Chloe with her flaky niece Rachel (Piper Perabo), who takes the dog on an ill-advised trip to Mexico and promptly loses her.
Chloe is nabbed by an underground ring of dog fighters, where she is rescued by disgraced police dog Delgado (Andy Garcia). The two of them embark on an adventure through Mexico—all the while, eluding the evil Doberman Diablo (Edward James Olmos) and trying to get Chloe home.
The heart of the picture is the buddy relationship that develops between helpless (but tougher than she looks) Chloe and the heroic, but world-weary Delgado. Barrymore is, of course, adorable as ever as Chloe, but Garcia anchors the film with his gruff (ruff?) humanity.
Beverly Hills Chihuahua, with its message of personal empowerment and “finding your own bark,” works best as a cuddly family adventure film. As a comedy, it pales considerably when compared to the likes of Shrek or even Bee Movie. Still, it’s relatively exciting and fun and even has a few chuckles. And when Delgado and Chloe stumble into a hidden Shangri-la of liberated Chihuahuas, even I wanted to adopt one of the little buggers.