PETS SMART | So, live-action talking-animal movies. Funny and endearing, right? If we're discussing Babe, the answer is yes, absolutely! If we're discussing pretty much everything else — the Dr. Dolittles, Good Boy!, Racing Stripes, Underdog, Beverly Hills Chihuahua, last summer's G-Force, last month's Marmaduke — the answer contains exponentially less affirmation. Thus, it is with a heavy heart and great obviousness that I must report that CATS & DOGS: THE REVENGE OF KITTY GALORE fails to deodorize the fusty genre's litter-boxian musk. This unasked-for sequel to 2001's shocker hit Cats & Dogs ($93 million!) is 82 minutes of analogy, positing domesticated canines as high-tech secret agents caught up in some kind of strange international race war with their mouser counterparts. With C&D 1's Persian supervillain Mr. Tinkles (voiced by Sean Hayes) now locked away like Hannibal Lecter — we visit him in the movie's only moderately funny scene — antagonist duties fall on the eponymous Kitty Galore (why, Bette Midler's voice? WHYYY?), a hairless rogue spy and "radical felinist" with a diabolical plan to turn humans against dogs across the world. In case you're inexplicably still reading this plot synopsis, I'll continue: Our buddy-cop pooch heroes — spry rookie Diggs (voiced by James Marsden) and grizzled veteran Butch (voiced by Nick Nolte), Shepherds German and Anatolian — are forced to team up with Catherine (voiced by Christina Applegate), a cat operative from an agency called M.E.O.W.S. (Mousers Enforcing Our World's Safety), and Seamus (voiced by Katt Williams), a streetwise pigeon, to do something or whatever, and oh my gosh, I almost put myself to sleep writing this sentence.
Like its predecessor, this Cats & Dogs is less a legitimate chunk of cinema than a filmed inventory of extremely anticipated — and rather terrible — pet-related gags. Hairball joke: CHECK. Joke about having worms: CHECK. Catnip-as-marijuana joke: CHECK. Butt-sniffing joke: CHECK. (This goes on for about three minutes, so it's more like CHECK CHECK CHICKETY CHECK.) Use of George Thorogood's "Bad to the Bone" on the soundtrack: CHECK. Use of the term "pussyfootin'": CHECK. Use of the colloquialism "What up, dawg?": CHECK. Cat-waterboarding scene: Okay, this bit caught me off guard. Occasionally, a stray line of dialogue will provoke a slight chuckle (intercom announcement at the dog HQ: "Today's cafeteria specials are leftover meatloaf and bacon. BACON BACON BACON BACON!"), and the deliciously insane Goldfinger-esque title sequence — set to a brassy Shirley Bassey cover of Pink's "Get This Party Started" — flaunts a pop wit conspicuously absent from the rest of the movie. Generally, though, The Revenge of Kitty Galore is the kind of youth-oriented pablum that its admittedly nifty cast — I haven't even mentioned Neil Patrick Harris or Wallace Shawn or Jack McBrayer yet — will promote on various chat shows by claiming they wanted to make a film for their children or their grandchildren or their adopted Malawian children, when what they really mean is: "$$$ $$$$$$ $$$$ $$ $ $$$ $$ $$$$$." (And speaking of $$$$$: The ticket-price-jacking retrofitted 3D, as usual, totally sucks.) The bottom line: Kindergarteners are going to love it. But I am not a kindergartener. As you can probably tell from my sophisticated writing style, I am a highly mature grown-ass man, and I have precious little patience for banal kiddie crap. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to watch my DVDs of The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo: The Complete Series. D+ —Jasper
••• Showing in 3D and 2D. Rating: PG. Running time: 82 minutes.